Do the Mensch Thing


Real estate is a fast-moving, competitive and sometimes combative business. It is a business where reputation matters. Personal or organizational reputations of honor, fairness, high ethics and “doing the right thing” help in all facets of business such as productivity, recruiting and retention. 

Therefore, you might as well be a mensch.

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A mensch, a Yiddish word, is a good person, one of honor and integrity. Though a mensch has a masculine connotation, it is, from my perspective, a gender-neutral concept.

Many believe that business is no place for a mensch as the challenges of driving revenue and business plans make good behavior difficult. This is evidenced by the myriad business and political scandals we read about daily. Yes, it is difficult to do the right thing; it is a struggle. However, success with honor is possible.

I have been fortunate to have mensch-like parents who were great role models. My parents evidenced the right way to behave by how they led their lives.    

My career was not one filled with menschen as role models, causing my happiness and pride to suffer. That changed when I joined Eastern Consolidated and began working with Chairman Peter Hauspurg, President Daun Paris and Chief Financial Officer Peter Takiff. In my four years at Eastern, they have repeatedly been confronted with difficult issues, and in each situation they made the mensch-like choice even when it was not in their best interest. Why? Because they simply believe in doing the right thing.

Someone cannot proclaim themselves a mensch. For example, we all know people who lack deep levels of integrity, honesty and empathy and attempt to placate their consciences and influence others by donating large sums to charity. The “mensch offset” is akin to the carbon offset used by people who abuse the environment and indicate “ends justifying the means” thinking. These offsets do not fool anyone.

So what are the practices of a mensch?

Doing the right thing. This is basically the core of being a mensch and everyone—peers, clients, etc.—must know you as a person who always does the right thing. 

It is easy to behave well when your interests and the right thing are the same. Yet the true test of character occurs when you act against your self-interests. In the end, though, karma is a bitch, and when we behave well, it comes back to us in spades, but a mensch does the right thing with no expectation of a return. 

Tell the truth. Honesty is always the right policy, and little acts of dishonesty lead to larger ones.  A side benefit is that you do not have to remember who you told what to.

When wronged, move on. Do not talk poorly about others. People will treat you poorly. It is part of living. How someone behaves says more about them than it does about you. Brush it off. In the grand scheme of things, who cares? You might as well be civil.

Do not gossip. It is easy to talk about other people and their flaws, but why? Gossiping is not a thing a mensch does.

Only make promises that you will keep. That means not overpromising or misleading people. A mensch’s word is as good as gold.

When you hire people give them every opportunity to succeed. When you realize they will not succeed be honest with them. Nothing is more damaging to the human spirit than being led to believe success is around the corner when it is not.

My father instilled in me idea that I should always act like a gentleman, not because the other person is but because I am. My father wanted me to always to do the right thing regardless of how the other person behaved. While I have not always lived up to my father’s standard, it is something I focus on every day of my life. After all, you might as well be a mensch!

Mark Schnurman is chief sales officer and a principal at Eastern Consolidated.