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Alabama Businesses Get A Character Makeover

Crissy Long’s first thought was: That has to be fireworks.

She was getting out of the car in front of her public-housing apartment when her cousin, who was also in the car, realized it wasn’t fireworks. It was gunshots, and the two women were caught in the crossfire of a shootout.

It wasn’t even the first time Crissy had nearly been shot. Someone once fired a gun into that same apartment.

Crissy’s public-housing building was infested with bugs. Sure, they’d spray every now and then, but the foundation under the building was so bad the insects just kept coming back.

Things were not going like she had planned when she moved to Huntsville from Birmingham to take a coaching job that ultimately fell through. When she wasn’t working at a part-time job, Crissy volunteered at a nearby library helping the kids after school, restocking shelves and checking out lots of books on faith, God, character and finances. She didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but she knew one day things would change.

And when they did, she would be ready.

These are the kinds of things that would break most people, but not Crissy Long. Instead of letting circumstances overwhelm her, she worked and networked her way into a job at Secure Destruction. Owner Bart Justice had been looking to hire someone with just her level of perseverance for their route supervisor opening. Because even more than perseverance, Crissy has character.

See, character is important to Bart. It was important to him when he started Secure Destruction, and character has since played a huge role in how he manages his business and how he chooses the people he hires.

People like Crissy, who has since been able to move out of public housing.

“I try to respect everyone that I approach—whether they’re rude or nice, wealthy or poor,” Crissy said. “You have to humble yourself at all times.”

That’s What Sinks Ships

Bart tells the story of when he met with a vice president of Chick-Fil-A. The executive told him employees are like icebergs—the 15 percent above water is the skill an employee has to perform the job. The 85 percent below the water is character. It’s what’s beneath the water—the character—that sinks ships.

Secure Destruction destroys and shreds documents and hard drives that could potentially put people’s security at risk. Trust is important in that industry—no one would want someone with questionable ethics handling their bank statements and personal information.

“Trust is the number one reason that people would choose a shredding vendor,” Bart said. We’re taking sensitive information and saying that we’re going to destroy it in a secure way. We’re not going to pass it along. We’re going to be people of integrity and do what we say that we’re going to do.”

Alabama Businesses of Character

Bart already had a reputation for giving back to the community, so the Better Business Bureau tapped him to be on the board of the newly-formed Character Foundation of North Alabama.  After all, who better to represent character in business than a man whose company regularly gives the community peace of mind by protecting their identity?

Bart eventually decided to also serve on the business committee for the Character Foundation. Since not every business has an organized plan for character development, Bart, along with the other members of the business committee, came up with the idea to encourage other businesses to raise their character standards.

The newly-founded Alabama Business of Character Program was rolled out at the 2016 Torch Awards for Ethics in November.

Not all business leaders have ethics, so it’s important to recognize those who have high standards for their company’s character. That’s something Bart gets after spending a few years working with people who trust him. That’s why he looks at more than skill sets when he’s hiring people. Bart and many other business owners look for people who have character beneath the water’s surface.

People like Crissy.

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