Every time a new business is launched anywhere in the world, whether a one-man operation or a full blown brick-and-mortar corporate enterprise, the owners must adopt a code of ethics for the business. For small businesses, the code is usually unwritten and sometimes not even discussed and decided upon, but still a code exists. Larger businesses often have written codes of ethics and employees are trained in them and required to adhere to the code.
Business owners who toss ethics aside by promising one thing and delivering another thing entirely usually do not last long in the marketplace. A code of ethics in business is just as important as a sound marketing plan, a solid financial strategy, and an organized business plan.
A code of ethics must encapsulate the beliefs and values of the organization. Those beliefs and values should become internalized by all employees and used regularly in all business practices, no matter what type of business it is. For example, a restaurant that has on its menu “Angus beef” but instead serves market-grade steaks that are much cheaper is practicing unethical marketing.
Owners of businesses that routinely engage in unethical practices cannot help but pass those values and principles along to the other people working in the business. Small businesses suffer even more, because unethical behavior and actions are easier for customers to take notice of. Once customers become aware that a business does not have high ethical ideals, they will take their business elsewhere.
Codes of ethics vary among businesses, and also from one country to another. Some Far Eastern companies, for example, would never think of trying to create a monopoly, force other companies out of business, or use intimidation to acquire a dominant position in the market. But few western organizations would create a code of ethics that intended to consciously avoid a powerful stance in the marketplace.
When a business grows large enough to expand its operations into other countries, it is critical to hire local talent to assist in training existing personnel with regard to the integrity, understanding, responsibility, and cultural norms of the country where the new operation is located. All employees must be treated equally, and any issues of inequality must be dealt with quickly, fairly, and in a manner that is satisfactory to all.
Today, more than ever before, consumers pay a great deal of attention to corporate governance and proper behavior of businesses and their owners. Because the marketplace is flooded with numerous variations of the same businesses, promises must be fulfilled and the price and quality of products must be equal to what is advertised, or another business will step in to deliver. Therefore, a code of ethics-whether unarticulated or formally documented-is vital to ensuring that a business will succeed.
A code of ethics that is both defined and acted upon is part of the business culture of every successful business, and must become the mantra of every business owner. Growing a flourishing business through the use of sound ethical principles will reap not only the benefits of growth and prosperity, but also the satisfaction of being able to sleep soundly at night.