Do ethical entrepreneurs earn more?
“Yes,” said Bernard “Bernie” Marcus, answering the question that also served as the title of his lecture.
The co-founder and former CEO of The Home Depot, Marcus visited the Fox School of Business Feb. 9 as the inaugural Warren V. “Pete” Musser Visiting Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Established in 2015, the Musser Professorship is an endowed term professorship filled by experienced and well- known practitioners who are interested in spending a term at the Fox School to mentor students in the early stages of their ventures.
A businessman and philanthropist, Marcus co-founded The Home Depot after he and coworker Arthur Blank lost their jobs with a California hardware store. The Home Depot went public in 1981 and has since become a billion-dollar, home-improvement empire. Marcus retired in 2001 to focus on philanthropy.
“Ethics are critically important,” Marcus told the standing-room only crowd at Alter Hall. “Everyone has that desperate moment in business when someone tries to break your conscience.”
Marcus’ “desperate moment” came when, at age 49 and unemployed, he decided to open The Home Depot. The former medical student hadn’t encountered the sometimes-unprincipled and amoral dealings that one can encounter with owning a business.
Undaunted, Marcus refused to work with those who were dishonest and resolved that his business wouldn’t be about cutting corners or taking bribes.