The Ethisphere Institute just announced its 2012 “World’s Most Ethical” (WME) company honorees at the Global Ethics Summit held in New York City. The Ethisphere Institute is a respected international ethics “think tank” and they present a series of annual awards to companies in various industries that exemplify sterling business ethics. 2012 U.S. honorees included Cisco, Ford and Timberland, successful companies performing with conscience.
You’ve been dealing with ethics for years. Long before you ever thought to turn a new product or idea into a business you already had an established code for your own personal behavior. You may, however, just be getting introduced to business ethics, as they apply directly to you and those you do business with.
For example, early-on in the life of a company, when you are seeking your start-up funding, you will be working with lending institutions that subscribe to certain codes of industry ethics. The same applies to products you purchase for your business. Suppliers and manufacturers have their own industry standards to maintain.
Honesty, fairness and integrity are three main principles in any ethical approach to business, and it is your responsibility to ensure that your company does things the right way. You don’t have to give your business away to be ethical, or let competitors walk all over you. It’s alright to seek a profit, and it is alright to try to outperform your competitors. However, just as there are right ways and wrong ways to play sports, there are right ways and wrong ways to conduct business.
Here are few “ethical” points to remember as they apply to any new business or entrepreneur.
1. Golden Rules – To remain true to “The Rules” simply remember the tenets mentioned above: honesty, fairness and integrity. You aren’t required to make any deals with any devils to reach your goals. Treat people the way you’d want them to treat you and you’ll be fine.
2. Be (aware of) Yourself – You don’t have to become somebody else to achieve financial success, but it helps to realize who you are. Work hard to take advantage of your personal strengths. Work twice as hard to control your lesser qualities. Feisty baseball legend Leo “The Lip” Durocher once said that “nice guys finish last.” Lots of people have adopted the slogan when they talk about the commercial world, but it isn’t necessarily true. Many smart and highly successful business owners are wonderful people. They achieved their success through intelligent business practices, not through bullying tactics. There is no “good” or “bad” that is intrinsic to the business world; it’s all about the people involved.
3. You Run a Business – It is a given that you have some kind of profit motive when you enter the business world. Success, and the innovation that success breeds, are how we advance as a country. Business ethics have nothing to do with discouraging competition; they have everything to do with promoting fair competition.
4. What Goes Around . . . – The way you do business and treat employees and customers won’t stay a secret, even if you want it to. Word gets out about how a business is run and what kind of place it is to work for or deal with. Goodwill is established over time, though it can be lost instantly, so owners need to stay vigilant, not only about their own motivations but those of employees as well..
Ethics don’t have to be codified to have merit. Go with your sense of right and wrong and you will tend to make the correct ethical decisions. You should expect nothing less from those you work with.