My past columns have discussed specific legal issues. This month, I have decided to shift my focus to ethics, because this issue can help businesses avoid legal disputes with owners, employees and customers.
While there are numerous laws and regulations involving the ethics of doing business with the state or federal government, I am not aware of any laws or regulations that directly deal with ethical issues for small businesses that provide goods or services to private businesses and consumers. From my perspective, good business ethics form the core of a successful business.
Several years ago, I read a great book titled “Ethics 101” by John Maxwell. This book did an excellent job of boiling ethics down to the single core issue of treating others as you would like to be treated. The book did not provide specific guidance on how to handle the many ethical dilemmas that confront business owners, but it does challenge you to consider how you would expect to be treated if you were the one affected by your decision.
Maxwell’s premise is built around the basic concept that most people want to be treated with fairness, honesty and integrity. By treating people you interact with as well or better than we would want to be treated, we will build loyalty for our brand, loyalty from our employees and earn the respect of our business community and customers. Focusing on building an ethical business in the manner suggested by Maxwell will also minimize the risk of having expensive and time- consuming business disputes.
Several years ago, I attended a risk-management seminar at which the speaker noted that people are much less likely to sue people they like. The speaker’s main point was that people tend to like businesses that treat them fairly. They will return to a business that makes a sincere effort to take prompt and meaningful corrective action. He noted that it is not the corrective action itself that solves the problem, but the good faith effort to address the customer’s concerns.
By establishing a strong ethical base for your business, you will minimize the likelihood that your partners, your employees and your customers will take legal action against your business.
This article originally appeared on floridatoday