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La Cañada businessman’s book aims to reset moral priorities in Trump era

La Cañada businessman’s book aims to reset moral priorities in Trump era
La Cañada businessman Don Sheppard wrote and just published 'The Dividends of Decency: How Values-Based Leadership Will Help Business Flourish in Trump's America.' (Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Like millions across America, La Cañada resident Don Sheppard spent the evening of Nov. 8, 2016, watching the results of the presidential race unfold. As candidate Donald Trump pulled ahead, however, Sheppard turned off the television and went to bed.

The longtime Republican — who identifies himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate — had not rooted for Trump in the race, believing the man's business practices to be absent the values of honesty, ethics and integrity that had guided his own successful career in employee and marketing communications.

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Sheppard feared what a Trump victory might mean in a nation that casts presidents as role models and moral leaders, so when he saw Trump take hold of the key states of Pennsylvania and Michigan he began to worry.

The next morning his worries were confirmed.

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"I turned on CNN as soon as I got up and it was on all the news," Sheppard recalled Trump's victory. "It truly sickened me for what I thought it represented. From that day I thought, 'I've got be a part of the resistance.'"

A businessman who'd come to California from Canada in 1980 and worked at a number of insurance and communications firms before growing his own company into a national consulting business and selling it at a profit 19 years later, Sheppard always thought of writing a book based on his life experiences and lessons.

He just didn't know the topic he would tackle until the morning after Election Day. That's when he called up a writer friend of his with whom he'd recently reconnected, fellow Canadian John Lawrence Reynolds, and pitched a book that would plead the case for maintaining ethics and integrity as a pathway to profit in a business environment where the end often justifies the means.

Lawrence agreed, and one day later, Vancouver-based publishing company Figure 1 bought into Sheppard's project. The result — "Dividends of Decency: How Values-Based Leadership Will Help Businesses Flourish in Trump's America" — hits the stands April 14.

"Part business manifesto and part memoir," the book comprises three sections: a look at the historic failures of corporations that risked their values for profit and learned their lessons the hard way; a biography of Sheppard's own rise from childhood poverty in a Northern Ontario mining town to financial success in the States; and a primer on applying values-based leadership in the workplace.

"It's not a political book," assures Sheppard, who's been photographed alongside George H.W. Bush and attended Ronald Reagan's inauguration. "I'm talking about Trump the person, not Trump the president — he is the example of the other side, of doing everything wrong."

As his personal credential Sheppard offers readers his own success in business, driven by his belief in smaller government, a free market economy and an obligation to help the unfortunate. For that reason, Lawrence included a bit of biography in "Dividends of Decency."

"It gave him bona fides," Lawrence said of Sheppard's experience. "He's a guy who goes in and gets things done, and he's done that extremely well."

Locally, Sheppard and his wife, Cayce, are known for their longstanding philanthropic efforts related to education. Sheppard played a key role in building La Cañada High's first artificial turf football field in 2003 and, in 2010, founded the LAFC Foundation to provide underserved teens in Greater Los Angeles an opportunity to play soccer and benefit from team sports.

Two years later, on his 65th birthday, Sheppard underwent a 3,215-mile cross-country bicycle trip to raise money for charities. He celebrated 66 in a "Pyrenees Sea to Sea" ride, covering 511 miles in nine days across 57,000 feet of elevation. He also completed three Ironman triathlons in his late 30s, despite initially not knowing how to swim.

"Everything I've taken on has been this huge challenge that takes discipline, integrity and strength," he said. "To accomplish something meaningful requires something exceptional and something others won't do."

Sheppard is currently promoting "Dividends of Decency" through multimedia interviews and op-ed contributions to "The Hill" and "International Business Times." On June 28, he will appear at a book signing at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse, 1010 Foothill Blvd., from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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