“A gentleman never allows crass self-interest to guide his way. He holds himself to higher standards, which are all the loftier for being self-imposed.” (Robb Report, page 160, September 2002)
It used to be that the very definition of a gentleman was that he had plenty of money, without having to degrade himself by actually working for the stuff. As the idle rich have come to be seen for what they are – bored and boring parasites – and as business has come to be seen as more interesting and glamorous over time, the old rules have changed. Now, a gentleman very much works for what he gets, but he goes about his business in a way that defines what it means to be a gentleman.
A gentleman may engage in a wide manner of different professions, but there are some in which it is virtually impossible to maintain high ethical standards: telephone solicitation, network TV, and politics all seem to almost demand degradation in one form or the other. Within the legal profession some niches are just fine – intellectual property protection, estate planning, a seat on the Supreme Court – others are strictly verboten, including divorce law, class actions – which are anything but; personal injury, and most forms of trial law.
The first rule is that a gentleman does not engage in force or fraud, or any occupation that involves these two original sins, thus eliminating professions, such as advertising, which seem to be at odds with the straightforward character and plainspokenness inherent in gentlemanly behavior. But in general, a man can act like a gentleman as a salesman, or a construction laborer, or a fast food manager, or in most positions.
The second rule is that a gentleman takes only what he is entitled to; he is not trying to make money by blind luck (although luck and circumstance always play a role in fortune). Thusly, he avoids lotteries and that sort of thing; he is proud of the fact that he works for, and earns, his money. He wants what he has earned; nothing more, nothing less.
Being a gentleman is no excuse for being a wimp – when a man has earned something, he expects to be paid, and pursues payment ardently. He does so not in a blustery manner, but in the manner of someone who expects to receive what is justly his or hers. In a business dispute, he is calm and collected. He says, as simply and directly as possible, but not in a threatening or belligerent manner, what he expects, and why he expects it. A huge amount of conflict in the business world is due to stylistic differences, and people taking offense at what they perceive as personal insults. By acting in a polite, calm, professional manner, you will avoid much conflict.
The most important rule is that in business, as in all aspects of his life, a gentleman treats others with courtesy and respect.