"It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it." -- Benjamin Franklin.
Fannie Mae. Freddie Mac. Bear Stearns. Countrywide. IndyMac. Lehman. Merrill. Once strong and even great corporate and financing nameplates now sullied by significant business reverses.
On the flip side: Apple. Google. Berkshire Hathaway. Goldman Sachs. Firms with gilt-edged reputations and prestige, admired the world over.
And the people that constitute both firms? Ask any former Enron employee: whether deserved or not, their personal reputations have been sullied by the scandals and collapses suffered by their previous employers. In contrast, employees currently or formerly associated with corporate America's golden children benefit significantly -- even those that have had only a marginal impact on the businesses (like those who joined Google when its shares were at $700).
Whether we like it or not, our reputations, our incomes, our future prospects, all are massively impacted by the organizations with which we are associated. In small companies especially, ALL employees have a meaningful impact on the company's reputation. When any of us do great work and the firm is recognized and prospers, all of us benefit: in the short term, as the firm's reputation grows and in the medium and long term, we enjoy a financial boon as the benefit of a good reputation yields financial results, given that reputation is a core driver of brand equity.
Arguably in the modern, flat world, the most valuable asset for all of us – firms and individuals – are our reputations. And when any one individual in an organization, a community, a nation – shines, we all glow. And when anyone of us falters, we all pay the price. The price can be sometimes small, sometimes insigifnicant, but it is always paid and if it happens often enough, then eventually the law of numbers catch up and all lose. Big time.
My suggestion for all (including myself of course) – given our shrinking global village – let's be ever-vigilant to assure that we are consistently touched by "the better angels of our nature" when we get out of bed in the morning. Each and every day.