28 March 2012

Business Ethics

More than ten years ago I worked as a lab manager for a biotech company. My job responsibilities were diverse and part of it included acting as an intermediary between the CEO and CFO of the company with the employees. As it happens in many companies, a situation arose where an employee was not a good fit for the company. Opportunities to change had been repeatedly extended without result and it became apparent that the company and this employee needed to part ways. I was asked by the CEO to inform the employee that the CEO and CFO wanted to speak with him. Once that message was relayed I was asked point blank “Am I being fired?” Due to my position I was privy to information that I could not share and in fact I had been directed to tell this employee that I did not know the nature of the meeting, only to relay that his presence was needed. The end result of this experience is that the employee, after being let go, continues to bear great animosity towards me for lying to him. And so I pose the question, rhetorically and to myself, “Did I act with integrity?”

I have been with Apogee for seven years and in that time many occasions have arisen to test my integrity. I have always striven to deal with our customers in a manner that is above reproach. Several years back it became apparent that an adhesive we were using failed in certain circumstances, which could lead to disk separation. We had years of data from Logan, UT where the sensors are built and had not found any evidence of this issue. However, as reports began to trickle in, we discovered that in hot and humid environments, our sensors were not performing as designed. As we gathered data and focused our efforts on a solution, the question arose of informing our current customers of the defect. In the end, we resolved to notify all of our customers to the best of our ability of the situation. We explained the environmental conditions where the issue was most likely to arise and developed a tool, the Clear Sky Calculator, to allow researchers and users of all pyranometers a method to check the accuracy of their sensors in the field. I feel comfortable that Apogee acted with integrity throughout the process.

Another example on a smaller scale is being upfront regarding the performance of our products. Our quantum sensor does not have a perfect spectral response. It is our position that if the application conditions match those of the calibration, our sensor will perform as well as those market leaders that cost three and four times as much. However, if you need to use our sensor under different light sources, spectral differences in the light source can lead to errors when using our sensor. We publish these differences on the web and educate our customers on what they can expect. I have communicated with many customers, on the phone, via email and in person and they are frequently surprised when I inform them that for their application, a competitor’s product would better suit their needs. Again, this is what I feel it means to act with integrity.

It is our company motto that we strive to help you “make better measurements.” We feel that by acting with integrity we will develop a relationship of trust with our customers. In being honest about the shortcomings of our products we may lose a sale of a hundred dollars but gain the respect and appreciation of a customer that will return to us for other sensor needs. As customers use our products and get the results they expect, they will share their experience with colleagues. A strong endorsement from a respected scientist benefits us much more that a host of advertisements on the web and in print media. This is why we strive to act with integrity as we help you make better measurements.


Devin Overly
Business Manager

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