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Ethics Matter.


We help our customers communicate clearly while encouraging personal RED SAGE COMMUNICATIONS, INC and professional growth and by »POSITION S TAT E M E N TSTATEMENT VISION offering a balanced approach with integrity.

I have just learned that Red Sage Communications and its President Ellen Didier have been nominated for the ethics award. We have used Red Sage on several projects since they started their business and have been very, very pleased with the quality of their work. Most of all we have been pleased with the fact that they have done what they said they would and have delivered a quality product on schedule. We are honored to write this note on behalf of Red Sage Communications and we ask your consideration in recognizing this outstanding company. John Seymour, President and CEO, Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce

OUR VISION When we developed the vision statement above, we wanted our core values represented. To break down what this statement says about our business:

We help our customers communicate clearly…. We help small businesses, organizations, and non-profits communicate with their customers through their web sites, print materials, and general marketing practices.

…while encouraging personal and professional growth… For our customers, we want our efforts to contribute positively to the bottom line of their business – helping to grow their business. We want to help customers grow in their understanding of how to market their organizations effectively and improve the ways they communicate. We want our employees to grow professionally as well – by providing ongoing training and networking opportunities. We also want our employees to grow personally, by providing a workplace that is flexible with time off and demands very limited (if any) overtime.

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…and by offering a balanced approach… Balance is a very important core value and has meaning to us on many levels. With our customers, we don’t just force feed our opinions. We take time to learn about their business and needs because we need to balance our marketing knowledge with the knowledge they possess about their industry. This results in solutions that work much better than anything we could develop on our own. When developing solutions for customers, we have to find a marketing mix that works well, which is typically a balance of several different mediums and efforts. We want our employees to have a life that is balanced so they are happier and healthier. This means we need to provide a workplace that is flexible so they can balance between time spent family and at work.

…with integrity. We don’t hit our customers with surprise charges. We provide accurate deadlines and budget estimates. If something happens that will affect either the project deadline or budget, we immediately contact the customer to advise them of the situation and discuss ways to return to the original scope or to get approval to proceed with the changed deliverables. We don’t avoid making the difficult phone calls when technical problems happen with web hosting or e-mail. We don’t inflate advertising claims or misrepresent products or services in our marketing messages. We take copyrights on photography and text seriously and always obtain the appropriate permissions even when nobody else may ever know. If we spend more time coming up to speed or dealing with technical issues on a project than we originally estimated, we don’t pass these costs on to our customers. If we make a mistake, we own up to it. Every employee at Red Sage understands that ours is a company that will always act with integrity, even if it costs us extra time or money.

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.

W. CLEMENT STONE

CUSTOMER/VENDOR RELATIONSHIPS Sometimes the most ethical way to do business is to walk away. We had a customer early in business that hired us to help them with public relations during the course of some negative publicity in the news media. We helped them through several press releases and provided basic media training for how to better communicate during times of crisis. When yet another negative newspaper article was released, they wanted us to create an ad that would “attack” the paper’s claims. We advised they take the high road and let us create an ad that dealt positively with the false claims contained in the article, but they were adamant about producing an ad that contained a negative tone. We told them this kind of advertising did not fit into our corporate philosophy and parted ways. While the profit from this account was solid and the company would have been a good source of ongoing business, we felt that in the best interest of our corporate values we could no longer do business with that company. In our line of business, we are often privy to private information from our clients. We may be granted access to confidential business documents, web hosting accounts, e-mail accounts, and even such personal things as credit card accounts. Our customers have to trust that we will treat this information with the utmost care, and we can never abuse that trust. Everyone in our office takes this seriously. If we need to access an e-mail account, we ask for permission, and we do not discuss confidential information with anyone, even others in the office. We know that one small moment of indiscretion could not only hurt our business, but could have disastrous effects on our client’s business. In the course of our 3.5 years in business, we have made mistakes on print jobs for two customers. In both cases, we immediately reprinted the job at our cost with no questions asked once the error was discovered. We are human and mistakes do happen. We want to be sure we own up to these mistakes, apologize, and resolve them promptly even

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if it costs us money. A customer once told me that he judged a vendor not by how well they did during the normal course of business, but how well they responded to issues and mistakes. It is our goal to be the kind of vendor that applies the same values of responsiveness and integrity when we correct a mistake as we show during the normal course of business.

OUR BUSINESS ETHICS IN ACTION The founder and president of Red Sage actively participates in Rotary International, a service organization with the motto “Service above Self�. Each Monday, every club member recites the Rotary Four Way Test: First, is it the truth? Second, is it fair to all concerned? Third, will it build goodwill and better friendships? Fourth, will it be beneficial for all concerned?

As CEO of a cloud hosting SaaS (Software as a Service) company whose job it is to provide expert programming services to marketing agencies around the country, I have worked with Red Sage Communications on several very large projects. We work with several marketing agencies in the same field, and we have found Red Sage to be one of the best in the industry. When we receive work from the Red Sage team, it is always well documented and delivered to us in ready-to-use condition. We have found them to always be fair when misunderstandings on project scope arise and have never seen them deal with any situation that arises with anything but the highest level of integrity. Plus, Red Sage understands that our work must be fairly compensated and always pays us on time. Gar y Brooks, CEO, CloudAccess.net

Red Sage and its employees are regularly involved in activities that give back to the community through partnership and participation in a variety of local non-profits. Thousands of dollars in the form of donated or reduced cost services and sponsorships have been donated to the community by Red Sage since its founding in March of 2006. Organizations that have benefited include PACT Family Resource Center, Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, Decatur Jaycees, Decatur City Schools, Decatur City Schools Foundation, Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority, Carnegie Visual Arts Center, Princess Theatre of Performing Arts, Hospice of the Valley, Habitat for Humanity of Morgan County, Decatur-Morgan County Minority Development Association, Morgan County System of Services, Red Cross of Morgan/Lawrence Counties, Morgan County Workforce Alliance, Morgan County Economic Development Association, Decatur High School Chorus, and more. It is our company philosophy to actively give back to the community that has helped us to grow and succeed.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

ETHICS IN ADVERTISING AND WEB SITE DEVELOPMENT

MARGARET MEAD

We follow all stated ethical advertising practices as spelled out by the American Advertising Federation in all of our work:

ETHICS IN WEB SITE DEVELOPMENT AND ONLINE ADVERTISING There are many reports of business ethics abuses in the web site development industry including lack of protection of sensitive information that is submitted through a web site, intrusive online advertising or information collection practices, or attempts to artificially inflate search engine results. Our standard web contract with our web customers states not only that we will not follow these practices but insists that our customers follow them as well. Additionally, if we build any applications that collect personal or financial information we make sure the information is stored safely on a server and encrypted with SSL. We do not follow practices that attempt to artificially inflate search engine rankings including “stuffing” keywords throughout the site, or using link farms or web rings. If a customer wants to move their site to another vendor we cooperate completely by providing all of their files, materials, management logins and other information promptly so downtime of the customer’s web site is minimized. When it comes to online advertising, we do not program pop ups, pop unders, or any intrusive technologies for advertising purposes. We do not inflate online ad performance statistics in an attempt to increase advertising revenues. We do not develop any spyware or participate in the distribution of unlicensed or pirated software. Our permission-based e-mail services are fully compliant with Can-Spam legislation. We train every customer that uses this system to send e-mails only to customers, prospects, employees, or vendors that have either had some kind of relationship with the company in the past 18 months or that have specifically requested they receive the e-mails. Our system does not allow sending e-mail out to purchased lists in an attempt to build business through spam.

ADVERTISING ETHICS AND PRINCIPLES Adopted by the American Advertising Federation Board of Directors, March 2, 1984, San Antonio, Texas. TRUTH Advertising shall tell the truth, and shall reveal significant facts, the omission of which would mislead the public.

GUARANTEES AND WARRANTIES Advertising of guarantees and warranties shall be explicit, with sufficient information to apprise consumers of their principal terms and limitations or, when space or time restrictions preclude such disclosures, the advertisement should clearly reveal where the full text of the guarantee or warranty can be examined before purchase.

SUBSTANTIATION Advertising claims shall be substantiated by evidence in possession of the advertiser and advertising agency, prior to making such claims.

PRICE CLAIMS Advertising shall avoid price claims which are false or misleading, or saving claims which do not offer provable savings.

COMPARISONS Advertising shall refrain from making false, misleading, or unsubstantiated statements or claims about a competitor or his/her products or services.

TESTIMONIALS Advertising containing testimonials shall be limited to those of competent witnesses who are reflecting a real and honest opinion or experience.

BAIT ADVERTISING Advertising shall not offer products or services for sale unless such offer constitutes a bona fide effort to sell the advertising products or services and is not a device to switch consumers to other goods or services, usually higher priced.

TASTE AND DECENCY Advertising shall be free of statements, illustrations, or implications which are offensive to good taste or public decency.

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In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.

Our office has worked with Ellen and the Red Sage Team on multiple projects and we will be using them again soon. They are a very professional group that goes above and beyond to meet your expectations and they don’t give up until you’re satisfied with their product. They are very easy to work with because they do their homework before they start so they can really understand your business model, targets, and objectives for each project.

WARREN BUFFET CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY

Je re m y Na i l s , Pre s i d e n t / C E O o f Mo r g a n C o u n t y Ec o n o m i c De ve l o p m e n t A ssociation

EMPLOYEE RELATIONSHIPS When we developed our vision statement containing a statement on doing business with integrity and unveiled it to employees, every employee requested a copy to display in their office. We regularly discuss approaches to different problems or situations that arise and talk as a team about the best resolution in keeping with our commitment to integrity. Each morning, our entire staff gathers for a short 5-minute meeting. We each take turns leading the meeting, starting off with an inspirational message or quote that often covers teamwork, customer service, integrity, and other related messages. By starting off every day with a message that talks about positive ways to work together as a team and positive ways we can serve our customers, integrity remains a central visible theme in all that we do. As a small company, we can’t provide the level of benefits many large companies can provide to their employees. What we can provide is a healthy work environment that promotes the value of every individual. We can limit overtime and offer a great deal of flexibility so it is easier for employees to balance personal life and family with their job. We can provide ongoing training so employees can advance and grow in their career. In the three years that I’ve been employed with Red Sage, I haven’t once gotten up on a work day morning and felt a sense of dread about going to work. Our office environment is friendly and usually fun. We have an “open door” policy and the doors are both literally and figuratively wide open for us to share our ideas, opinions, and frustrations. I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable about sharing my thoughts or suggestions. In fact, employee input is valued, respected, and

encouraged as a way to understand what each of us deals with in our part of any given project. It’s a good feeling to walk into your place of employment and know that your opinions and thoughts are as appreciated as your abilities and the work you produce. When I started working for Red Sage Communications in August 2006 everything I knew about computers and CONTINUES ON PAGE 12

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the internet was self taught and usually learned in the “trial by fire” manner. I had no formal education in web programming, however, Ellen believed in my ability to learn and work hard at what I was asked to do. Red Sage Communications was more than willing to provide the necessary tools and training and gave me the time and freedom to learn. Because of the encouragement and training at Red Sage Communications I feel I’ve accomplished an understanding of web programming that seemed completely out of reach when I started three years ago. One of the major benefits of working at Red Sage is the flexibility we are given in taking time off or working from home. Whether it’s a pre-planned day off for a vacation or a last minute call in to say we have a sick child it’s never an issue. On several occasions I’ve been able to stay at home with my son when he was sick and still get in my work hours. The flexibility to do what works best for me and for my family is a clear indication that Red Sage cares about its employees and their families. Red Sage Communications has provided me with a great work environment, growth opportunities, and the flexibility to spend time with my family when I need to. I couldn’t ask for a better employer or a more pleasant and positive work environment. —TERESA SMITH, WEB PROJECTS COORDINATOR “Studies have shown that peer pressure or the need to belong can cause people to do things they would never otherwise do. In that respect, I am fortunate to work in an office where I am never pressured to do the wrong thing or to be dishonest. I know that I can confidently express concerns to my boss and not have to hide or

misconstrue anything to her, other employees, or our customers. I know that each of my co-workers feel the same way too.” —HEATHER THOMPSON, MARKETING COORDINATOR “I have worked for many companies during the course of my career, but never before have I seen a company so dedicated to doing the right thing for both its customers and its employees. “Integrity” is not some amorphous concept here that forms part of a company’s vision statement and then sits on a shelf, never to be seen or thought of again. It truly is an integral part of the Red Sage corporate culture.” —CLAUDIA ROSSI, VP-MARKETING “During my second pay period after joining Red Sage, my computer workstation crashed and I had to take it in to be serviced. It took longer at the shop than we expected so that day I had “downtime” that I didn’t put on my time sheet. When payday came I didn’t have a check and I was a little concerned. Ellen hadn’t released my paycheck because she needed clarification on the hours I worked that week since it was less than the full amount. Seeing that the hours I didn’t work were of no fault of mine, she told me she would always err on the side of fairness and to log that missed time so I would be paid fully. I got my check the next day that included the payment for the hours I had previously omitted. We both were trying to be ethical with one another and it really made an impression on me. At times I’m called in for an opinion about pricing a job. What stands out is that both questions are asked: Are we charging enough? Are we charging too much? It’s great that we are about providing service at a fair price.” —MARK MOORE, ART DIRECTOR

If you believe in unlimited quality and act in all your business dealings with total integrity, the rest will take care of itself.

FRANK PERDUE

OUR COMMITMENT TO INTEGRITY When I started Red Sage, I wanted to establish a company that would reflect my values of community service, integrity, and providing a quality product backed by responsive customer service. As a working mom, I also wanted to be involved in my children’s activities, and I wanted to provide the same flexibility to others who worked with me. I believe in the Golden Rule of doing unto others as I would want them to do to me, and I try to live by this rule in all areas of my life. It is my belief that if I stay true to these core values as I run my business, my business will be successful. I have found that my industry (particularly on the web development end of things) struggles with the reputation of arrogance, poor customer service, and poor quality of final product. Many of the companies we work with have expressed their gratitude to have a marketing and web vendor they can trust to walk them through their options and deliver what they are looking for on time and on budget. Our customers know that we are always there for them if technical issues arise and are sincerely interested in providing solutions that help them streamline what they are doing or result in business growth. It still surprises me that these qualities are seen as rare because it is the only way I know how to do business. —Ellen Didier, founder and president of Red Sage Communications, Inc.

LEGAL ACTIONS Red Sage Communications, Inc. has not been involved in any law suits, class actions or government action in the past 5 years.

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Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.

We have always had a good working relationship with Red Sage, but were especially impressed at the way they handled an issue that came up during a recent printing project. We had printed a large number of booklets for them and they realized that the back cover was wrong. We assumed that the mistake had been on our end and offered to re-do the back covers of the booklets at no cost to Red Sage or their client. To our surprise, Red Sage quickly took responsibility for the error and asked to be invoiced for the extra work. We also know they did not pass this cost onto their customer. A lot of companies would not have taken the same approach. We were impressed by their honesty, to say the least.

OPRAH WINFREY

L e roy He r r i n g , O w n e r, Al a b a m a Ma i l Se r v i c e

HONORS AND AWARDS This commitment to integrity has led to business growth (in three years we are up to 5 employees), business profits, and recognition. While we have won awards for design quality, the awards we are proudest of are the ones we have received for our business practices including: • A Top 10 Most Dependable™ Web Designer of the Southern United States by Goldline Research in 2008. This was published in the April issues of Entrepreneur magazine and Delta Airline’s Sky magazine. • Groundbreaker Award from the United Way of Morgan County in 2009. We had 100% employee participation in the 2008-2009 United Way campaign and pledged more money than companies much larger than us. • Two Web Awards from the Web Marketing Association’s 2008 and 2009 international web design competition. These awards are based on 7 different criteria including usability, interactivity, quality of design and content and more. • 2008 Business Start Up of the Year by the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama

WHAT IT MEANS Receiving the Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics would mean a great deal to our company because it publicly recognizes the commitment we have made to our employees, our vendors, our customers, and our community. It would help give our company legitimacy in an industry where integrity and good customer service are not always the norm. Most of all, this award would recognize Red Sage employees for the day in and day out contributions they make in support of Red Sage’s corporate commitment to doing business with integrity.

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FINAL COMMENTS Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31

Thank you in advance for your consideration of Red Sage. Regardless of your decision, it is an honor to us to be nominated and considered for the Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics. We are proud to be members of the Better Business Bureau and applaud the organization for its strong voice promoting business ethics and consumer protection across America.


Ethics Matter - Red Sage 2009 BBB of North Alabama Torch Award Entry