Election Systems & Software

An Interview with Aldo Tesi, CEO and Chairman of Election Systems & Software
By Clare Conway and Scott Summers, Creighton University MBA students

Election Systems & Software’s headquarters is located at 11208 John Galt Boulevard.  Election Systems & Software services democratic elections by providing voting machines and election management systems through their vision of providing products and services of exceptional quality and value to maintain voter confidence and enhance the voting experience. After growing up in California and attending San Francisco State University while participating on their Men’s Golf Team, Aldo moved to Omaha, Nebraska and began his professional career working for IBM and First Data Corporation. He joined Election Systems & Software in 1999. Under his leadership at Election Systems & Software, business has evolved and Aldo has implemented key procedures in the culture to have all employees pride themselves on living above the line.

Can you define ethics and tell us what ethics means to you?

Ethics is the universal standards of right and wrong that guide a set of behaviors.

Do you think there is a difference between personal ethics and business ethics?

The only difference between personal and business ethics is in the routine and action, not at its core.

Do you see a connection between your upbringing and how you handle ethical situations at work?

I believe that core values are built while growing up, specifically before you turn five years old. From there, ethics and values are further engrained and reinforced.

What is the purpose of business?

I hope it’s to make money! Also, to have a high return on investment and key business results measured by a balanced scorecard.  The scorecard includes customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and product quality and value

Who are your ethical mentors?

Owners, bosses, peers, employees, customers, and suppliers are all ethical mentors. Mike McCarthy from McCarthy Capital has been a role model for me.

Talk to us about the ethical culture at your organization.

Here at Election Systems & Software, we have a live above the line culture. In regards to our associates living and demonstrating our core values, we like to recognize them through awards throughout the year. To help build the culture of living above the line, this January, we are taking 45 employees, plus a guest, on a trip to Maui for demonstrating and living the values that Election Systems & Software preaches.

What is tolerated at your organization when it pertains to ethics?

At first you want to say nothing, but in reality things to happen. Sometimes people can be a victim of a situation and it could be an honest mistake. When figuring out the real story, only opinion matters, the one based on facts. However, there is zero tolerance if you know what you are doing is wrong and the facts confirm it.

The Ethical Omaha Project of the Business Ethics Alliance has identified the Omaha business core values to be the following: Accountability, community responsibility, financial vitality, integrity and moral courage. Can you please elaborate on how these fit into your organization and what they mean?

Accountability: At Election Systems & Software, if you see it, own it, solve it, do it.

Community Responsibility: We provide employees the opportunity to volunteer by providing paid volunteer opportunities.

Financial Vitality: If we are not making money, we will lose customers, employees and have a positive industry reputation

Integrity: This is the most important core value and leadership quality one can have.

Moral Courage: If you see something that’s wrong, fix it or prevent wrong ethical behaviors and actions from occurring.

In reference to Aldo’s views about ethics as it pertains different geographical regions, he had this to say:

Ethics at its core is the same amongst various regions, in the sense that they all abide by their unique standards.  However, our version of universal standards is vastly different elsewhere.  For example, there are different laws, corporate policies and social beliefs that we must operate within globally. 

With that, describe an ethical situation in business you have faced that was relatively easy to handle.

We were in an intense bidding war with a Venezuelan company for 80,000 voting machines equivalent to a $60 million dollars of revenue in the Philippines.  It was insinuated that we would win the bid if I were to bribe the officials.  My response was simple, “No, that’s not the way we do things.”  In 1977, the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA) was established to explicitly punish offenders that partake in bribes, payoffs, kickbacks, excessive gifts and entertainment. 

Are there unethical behaviors that give other companies or business people an advantage? If there are, how has this affected you?

Yes, unethical business behaviors by others have disadvantaged us in the short run.  However, in the long run, they always get caught and ethical behavior wins out.  A good analogy is that you may win the battle, but you will always lose the war.

What are some of the ethical dilemmas in your company’s industry?

In the world of politics and voting that we operate within, there are endless opportunities for potential ethical wrong-doings.  The good news is, we have countless industry standards and policies in place to prevent anyone from ethical missteps.  In this industry, if you do one thing wrong, you are done.

What are the biggest ethical challenges that you think face the young business professionals, such as us, in today’s business world?

In terms of ethics, the challenges are the same; continue to always do the right thing.

Do you have any tips for dealing with ethical challenges?

Remember to totally resist any negative temptation and that doing right will always win in the end.