Fair Treatment is Good Business

    December 18, 2006

Business ethics deserve much more attention than they usually receive in operating a company.

While many people might limit the ethics discussion to honest weights and measures, customer service, and money calculations, the issues run much more deeply. An ethical company is run with honesty, openess, and transparency in every aspect of the organization. Being ethical in all of your business transactions, both within and outside the company, is also good business.

Ethical business operation is not simply an isolated department. The ethics ethos must permeate the entire company and be part of every decision. Everyone within the business, regardless of position on the dreaded organizational chart, must share in the practice of business ethics. By internalizing ehtical behaviour, every employee will make ethical choices as a matter of course. Since business ethics are good for the company, all short, medium, and long term decisions will be made with ethics in mind.

I was recently interviewed by Jackie Headapohl of StartUpNation as part of an article on ethical business practices for new companies. Jackie and I discussed ethical business practices as a holistic concept that the entire company should embrace from the very beginning of its operations.

In the article, Jackie writes:

Wayne Hurlbert, a blogger and Winnipeg-based business ethics consultant since 1999, says to begin thinking about your company’s standards while creating your business plan. “Begin with a firm statement of your own convictions and principles,” he says. These are the cornerstones of how your organization will operate in the present and into the future.”

Business ethics must be taken far beyond some lip service to customer service; and definitely not be limited to not doing anything outright illegal. That is barely scratching the surface of ethical business practice. In fact, I would think that such narrow focus is not ethical thinking at all. Right from the very beginning, if ethics are built into the company planning, they will become ingrained company policy. Every action taken by everyone in the organization will be made with ethics and fair treatment in mind. That concept travels light years beyond just staying within the confines of the law.

Jackie and I continue our business ethics discussion for startup companies:

At the very least, start with a clear, firm statement of convictions and principles about how you will treat customers and employees. “Most run-of-the-mill mission statements ignore business ethics,” Hurlbert says, “but including them will establish your business on the right foot from the very beginning.”

He stresses that every business must commit to providing excellent customer service: “No misleading claims. No promises not kept. No inferior products. If a business reneges on these promises, customers will leave and tell others. And bad news travels at light speed.”

Along with more of my comments on ethics and employees, Jackie includes advice from other business people as well.

Read more of Jackie Headapohl’s article titled Business Ethics: “Honesty is the Best Policy” Must Be More than Words on the Wall at StartUpNation. You can also comment on the article by joining their forum. Registration is free, and I am a member of their forum community.

Make business ethics an integral part of your business. Ethics are good business practice and pays off in the company bottom line. Everyone wins.


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