How Important Are Small Business Ethics?

Sooner or later, all business owners will need to think about their ethics. While business ethics and personal ethics may seem worlds apart, are they really? When the business practices of a small business conflict with the personal ethics of the owner, something needs to give. The best bet is to follow your personal ethics when it comes to a conflict. For instance, the Abercrombie Fitch scandal.

The CEO helped grow the business based on what many see as unsavoury personal ethics. The desire to sell to only popular, good looking kids…this decision to build a business based on what many people see as a bullying personality has led to boycotts. Far from being decisions based on data as many would suggest, these were based on being the in-crowd, which no one likes. This is a place where most business owners never want to see themselves – on the bad side of public opinion.

Bending The Rules

There will come times when you may need to bend rules in order to keep your business afloat. Nearly everyone has made some sort of compromise in their personal or business life. Bending the rules doesn’t mean breaking them, though there can be a very fine line. When the line between bad ethics and good ethics becomes blurred, it is time to step back and re-evaluate where your company stands ethically. Some business people will contend that momentary lapses in ethical behaviour are common, so much that we should forget about the instances or treat them as if nothing bad happened.

Let’s say that you can’t remember the exact hours worked on a project or what all items cost to repair a product. Choosing a random high number just to cover cost and make a profit is such a lapse. This action doesn’t reflect well on your or your business practices. Clients may turn elsewhere if this becomes a common occurrence.

Good Ethical Practices

Small businesses can benefit from good ethical practices. Customers that frequent your business or use your services know they can count on you to be honest in your dealings. If a competitor is known for bad ethical behaviour – who will reap the benefits of good behaviour? Angry customers of theirs may just flock to your business due to your good reputation. It pays to have good ethics, sometimes literally. Not only are bad ethical practices bad for business, they can land the company’s owner(s) in prison.

Financial crimes are well known in the business world and while people get away with such ethical, illegal practices, eventually it is found out. Bad ethics are a large part of the reason the United States entered an economic downturn. If bad ethical practices can ruin the economy of an entire country, imagine what they can do to a small business.

Put good ethical practices in play for your small business. Keeping to them can help maximize your profitability, your customer base, and the overall health of your company. Practicing good ethics will help you avoid the pitfalls so common with bad ethical decisions. You’ll also avoid a bad reputation with other business owners and customers.

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