By Atul Vir

If you scan the business headlines each week, you’ll notice a lot of discouraging stories: ethical violations, mass firings for the sake of profit, and recalls that endanger customers left and right. In the last year alone, we’ve seen recalls from countless auto brands — most notably the record-breaking $4.8M General Motors recall that left dozens dead and not a single employee with an ounce of responsibility over the debacle.

Recalls happen; it’s an unfortunate truth of business. But what doesn’t have to happen is the lack of responsibility that follows.

Easier said than done, you might be thinking. But I’m not writing this having never experienced a recall. A decade ago, my company was gripped by a recall so devastating that we nearly went bankrupt. Through this unbelievably difficult situation, and the lawsuit that followed, I learned one thing: you have to take care of your customers.

When the recall hit Equator, thousands of our machines malfunctioned due to a defect caused by our manufacturer. As a home appliance leader, I understand how important a laundry machine is to a home — for a busy family, it can mean the difference between getting through your day with ease or scrambling to find clean sports uniforms, dress clothes or other essentials. Our customers trusted us to make the best laundry machines on the market, and we did so — until the recall hit.

Through the recall, I faced many difficult crossroads as a CEO. We hemorrhaged money, lost distributors, weathered a drawn-out lawsuit against a foe much larger than us (we won!) and most importantly, felt our glowing reputation begin to tarnish. But through it all, I spent every penny fulfilling warranty replacements and refunds. And because of that, my customers came back to Equator when we got back in the game with our Super Combo. It’s been a tough comeback, but with the help of our customers, Equator is still going strong.

As I followed the General Motors recall last year, part of me sympathized with them. I know what it’s like to have a defective product that endangers people’s lives. I know the sleep, money and relationships lost when a recall hits. But what I can’t sympathize with is the lack of responsibility this iconic American company showed when presented the facts of the matter: its defective product caused more than a dozen people to lose their life. As business owners, we have a responsibility to take care of our customers, even when the going gets tough. GM did not live up to America’s business ethics standards, which is clear from the results of tough Congressional hearings, countless unflattering news opinion pieces and who knows how many lost customers.

Recalls happen. It’s an unfortunate truth of business. But the harm of these product malfunctions can be curbed if organizations act quickly, ethically and with their customers’ needs first. It may sound naive, but no matter the situation, there is always a choice that serves the customer rather than the business’ own needs. That value allowed Equator to come back, and will rebuild America’s broken trust in businesses.

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