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What Wall Street can learn from the Marine Corps

Before becoming a successful entrepreneur and investment banker, Ken Marlin was in the Marine Corps, where he spent 10 years as an infantry command officer. Marlin tells Yahoo Finance that he took the skills he learned as a Marine and turned them into success in the boardroom. He lays out those principles in his new book, “The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street.”

“Take the long view,” Marlin explains. Whether on the battlefield or in the office, Marlin says to know your organization’s long-term strategic mission.

“Then, all tactics need to help that organization achieve that long-term mission,” he says. He believes all bankers should be focused on their clients’ long-term goals, even if that means telling them what they don’t always want to hear.

As founder and managing partner of the New York–based investment bank Marlin & Associates, he says too many business people are reactive and not willing to “take a stand.” Marlin is quick to point out that this is more than just being decisive, which is a major Marine Corps trait. He says it also means being willing to “speak truth to power.”

He uses the recent scandal at Volkswagen to illustrate his point. “Had a bunch of executives at Volkswagen taken a stand on faulty emission controls, Volkswagen wouldn’t be paying billions of dollars in fines, recalling cars, losing sales, losing reputation.”

In short, Marlin says the art of the deal is about more than winning and simply using whatever leverage you have to crush the other side. It’s also about doing the right thing.

“We have evolved into a culture,” he says, of too many people who “believe it’s okay to cut corners … and it’s even ok to commit fraud, if you think you won’t get caught,” he says.

He says Wall Street and Main Street can both learn from the Marine Corps credo, “Do the right thing, for the right reasons, every time, no exceptions.”