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Business ethics awards draws crowd

Costco President and CEO Jim Sinegal talks to a crowd at Thursday’s Business Ethics Awards luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Silverdale. - Jesse Beals/staff photo
Costco President and CEO Jim Sinegal talks to a crowd at Thursday’s Business Ethics Awards luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of Silverdale.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

By RACHEL BRANT

Staff writer

Chapman University students spent the past several weeks away from the classroom learning firsthand what it takes to be ethical in business.

To cap it all off, Costco President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jim Sinegal addressed the students and a crowd of Silverdale Rotarians Thursday at the Silverdale Beach Hotel.

The Rotary Club of Silverdale hosted the fifth annual Business Ethics Awards luncheon March 20 to honor the students and mentors who participated in the Chapman University course. Students at Chapman University, which is located on Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, were paired with local business leaders to get an up close and personal look at business ethics in action. Both the students and mentors were honored at Thursday’s luncheon.

Angela Hodges, who paired up with Chris Koebelin, general manager of the Silverdale Beach Hotel, received the 2008 Student Excellence Award and Edward Jones Investments financial advisor Michael Allen, who mentored Matthew Long, was honored with the 2008 Business Exemplar Award.

After the awards were handed out, Sinegal took center stage. Silverdale Rotary President Steve Slaton was honored to have him in attendance.

“We’re very excited and very proud that he decided to come to this Rotary Club luncheon,” Slaton said.

Slaton said Sinegal is a great example for the business ethics students and his story shows that doing business ethically can make people successful.

Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman founded Costco Wholesale Corporation in 1983. The pair needed to raise $7.5 million to start the business and ended up raising $11 million. What did they do with the extra $3.5 million? They gave it back to those who donated it because they did not need it.

Costco opened its first warehouse in September 1983 in Seattle. Twenty-five years later, Costco now operates 534 warehouses in 40 states and Puerto Rico as well as in eight countries. Roughly 52 million people have Costco membership cards and the wholesale giant made $66.5 billion in the past year alone.

Despite his overwhelming success, Sinegal remains humble about his many achievements. He visits Costco warehouses frequently wearing a nametag which simply reads “Jim.” Sinegal answers his own telephone and continually strives to do business the ethical way.

“We work and strive, spending all of our time, bringing goods and services to the market at the lowest possible prices,” Sinegal said.

Slaton said Thursday’s Business Ethics Awards luncheon was a great way to recognize achievements in business ethics because people typically only hear about the businessmen and women who exercise poor ethical choices.

“We hear about the ethical lapses in business but not the achievements in business,” Slaton said.

Sinegal said he decided to attend the Silverdale Rotary luncheon because he enjoys speaking at functions for students and up-and-coming business leaders.

“I usually try to do things for students, generally the only time I speak is for students,” Sinegal said. “Education in every form is important.”

Chapman University students and Silverdale Rotarians enjoyed listening to Sinegal’s presentation and learned a lot from the businessman’s success story. Sinegal said his Silverdale trip served two very important purposes: educating business students and walking the aisles of the Silverdale Costco warehouse himself.

“It was a good excuse to come out here and visit the Silverdale warehouse,” Sinegal said with a smile.

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