Speaker, writer, and CNN analyst Dr. Bruce Weinstein is the author of four books on ethics, most recently Life Principles: Feeling Good by Doing Good. You can reach him at 212.706.3832, or at bruce@theethicsguy.com

REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: Why are ethics important to a business?

Bruce Weinstein: Every business covets positive word-of-mouth. The best and most traditional way to generate that is to create trust. People trust you when they believe that you care about their interests as much as your own. They're more likely not only to give you their business, but also to tell others about you.

RC: What can individual company owners do to evade the home improvement industry's bad reputation with some consumers?

BW: Company culture trickles down. If you allow slacking on the job, let crackheads come to work, and tolerate sexual harassment, employees see this. On the other hand, if you refuse to tolerate these things, that becomes what the company's about. You have to embody the ethical principles you espouse. It's hard to do and a long slog, but eventually word will get out.

RC: What would you do if you knew your sales manager was addicted to cocaine?

BW: The first thing is to help him get help. And at the same time you have to remove him from situations where he might cause harm to others. In the long run, everybody is better served by not punishing someone, not taking away his or her livelihood. But the person has to recognize that they have a problem. If they refuse, all you can do is let them go.

RC: What would you do if you found out that a $1 million salesman was giving away work with the job or promising homeowners more than he knew the company could deliver?

BW: First, reprimand him. If he does it again, fire him. There has to be a zero tolerance policy for egregious violations of ethical conduct. This is one way of recovering what's been lost with the public. And it's a good practice. In the 21st century, being a good businessperson will be synonymous with being ethical.

RC: Should companies furnish employees and clients with ethical principles in writing? BW: It can't hurt. But putting it on a piece of paper is meaningless unless those beliefs are your actual conduct.

RC: Is it right to draw attention to the unethical practices of competitors?

BW: No. The best thing to do is to maintain the highest possible standard, and that's not consistent with bad-mouthing the competition. Instead of focusing on what the competition is not doing, talk about what you will do for the prospect. When I deal with professionals — such as doctors — I trust them to take my interests into account. Professionals don't slam the competition.