By: Brittany Board, PSA Marketing Coordinator
I spent the first 28 years of my life in Laramie, WY and I am an alumni from the only university in the state. While I learned plenty living there, one thing that has stuck with me as I ventured into new pastures in Denver, CO is the “Code of The West.”
Jim Owens published the book Cowboy Ethics – What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West in 2004. In it, he lists out ten principles that makes every Wyoming resident proud, honored, and strong that can be applied to business. As a Laramie native, these words ring true in my mind and to think that things are different in the east can be baffling. While some of these principles may be viewed as applicable in professional settings to many people, I think they are part of the foundation that produces meaningful relationships in both the business and personal aspects of life:
1) Live each day with courage.
2) Take pride in your work.
3) Always finish what you start.
4) Do what has to be done.
5) Be tough, but fair.
6) When you make a promise, keep it.
7) Ride for the brand.
8) Talk less and say more.
9) Remember that some things aren’t for sale.
10) Know where to draw the line.
These principles don’t lay a roadmap of how to become the highest paying professional or the keys to controlling an industry. They are the traits that makes a person trustworthy, valuable, and someone you can look at and say, “They have it right.” The ranchers who have adopted the Code of the West aren’t all living in plush houses or taking weekly business trips. They are up before dawn to feed the horses and cattle, making it to their nine-to-five jobs, then back to the ranch in time to shoe the neighbor’s horses, fix the fence the antelope busted through, and work on finishing the calving barn before the spring storms hit.
Wyoming is filled with more than just ranchers, and these principles don’t stop at the paved road. Bankers, engineers and government officials have heard these ten principles and practice them in some way or another. You can find a poster or plaque in just about every business in Wyoming listing out the principles and they challenge their employees to practice them daily.
In 2009, a group of filmmakers, Havey Pro Cinema, came to Wyoming to film a 30-minute video based on the Code of The West (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/56624). They focused on Wyoming residents and how the code has impacted their lives and what those ten simple principles mean to them. From ranchers to members of legislation, members of the community all spoke with pride, having followed the Code for generations. What once didn’t have a name, soon became an official code of ethics for the state. In fact, Wyoming was the first state to adopt an ethics code. On March 1, 2010, at the Wyoming State Capital, Governor Dave Freudenthal signed a bill making every citizen of the state walk a little bit taller. On hand was Code of the West author Jim Owens and the individuals highlighted in the short film.
What Wyoming has put forth is a declaration of principles that unite its citizens…I think today Wyoming has not only demonstrated what makes this place so special, but has also raised the bar for citizens and public officials in every state of the union. Wyoming’s example will challenge and inspire others to reach deep within and reflect on what it is they stand for. – Jim Owens March 1, 2010, Wyoming State Capital
How could something with such an impact on an entire state be something that isn’t known outside of the 97,818 sq. miles? Since moving to Denver, CO I’ve see time and time again the absence of the qualities that the Code articulates. I often wonder, “What if…?” What if everyone who dealt with someone outside of your company was tough but fair, or talked less and said more? What if every employee rode for the brand and conducted themselves in a way that would make everyone at the company proud of them. Or what if every business owner knew where to draw the line? Would businesses be guaranteed to grow by adopting these principles? Probably not, but I would venture to say that office morale and employee retention would improve. Happy employees, happy customers. These ten principles are what this nation was founded on – hard work, self-reliance, and heart. You can’t teach values in the same way you teach accounting, customer service, sales, or marketing. Values are the reasons a person’s heart and mind function the way they do.
The last piece to the Cowboy Ethics is the 11th principle. This is the point where you take a look inward and establish one more principle that is personal to you. I’m just one person, and there is no way I can change a society alone, but I wake up every day remembering why I want to live by The Code of The West. I hope that my actions lead by example, showing others that I work so that when I’m done I can be proud of what I did. I take risks. I listen rather than talk. I understand that there are some things that may be out of my control but that I don’t have to just sit back and let them be, I can make them better. I have brought a piece of my Wyoming home to Denver and encourage you to take it to your company, organization, and personal life. Be the cream of the crop, rise to the top, and show others what it is to do the right thing.