In today’s world of situational ethics, it’s sometimes difficult to put the words business and ethics together in the same sentence. At least with a straight face.
To the casual observer, the Enrons of the world often seem to be the rule instead of the exception. When corporate profitability is threatened, business ethics often seem to go out the window. Greedy CEOs pocket ridiculous salaries and bonuses while their employees line up at the unemployment office.
But is that really how it should be?
No, it isn’t.
When did it become fashionable to be shady, smarmy, or just downright villainous? Why should good people and good businesses be looked at as “naïve” for playing by the rules?
Good business ethics should be part of any successful business. In truth, business and ethics should go hand-in-hand with success and profitability.
After all, ethics important in business are really ethics important in life. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Trust, empowerment, compassion – all these are qualities successful businesses should embody.
Granted, it is much easier for a small business to weave business and ethics into the fabric of their company. But there are plenty of larger corporations that use ethical leadership to drive profits . And that gives all us little guys hope.
Obviously, you can be successful and ethical at the same time. In fact, if you followed the link above, you saw that some of the most successful companies in the world are also some of the most ethical ones. One important reason for this is that consumers like doing business with a values-based company. We like how it makes us feel.
So how does one combine business and ethics? What can you, as a small business entrepreneur, do to ensure the company you build is grounded on sound values? Well, it isn’t easy…at least not all the time. But here is some advice that should help:
Lead by example. Provide the type of leadership that inspires those around you to walk with honesty, integrity, and quality. Employees follow the lead of the owner.
Reward employees for “doing the right thing.
When making business decisions, don’t just consider the financial bottom line – take the environmental and social impact into consideration as well.
Encourage life / work balance. Employees shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and their families. Make it easy for them to do both.
Encourage selflessness. Make volunteer and charitable work part of your company’s mission, and encourage your employees to participate.
Business and ethics should never be mutually exclusive. Small businesses have the amazing opportunity to do it right, right from the beginning. Take the challenge and make sure the company you build is built on sound values and ethics that stand the test of time.
One of the ways I stay informed on business and ethics in today’s tough climate is by reading The Wall Street Journal. I’ve found it to be a publication of honesty and integrity, and I highly recommend it. If you think you might be interested in subscribing, click the link below and you’ll receive great subscription savings: