Are we all ethical at our core?
Without a doubt, I believe that I am. There isn’t much to this question – I thought – until I skimmed an article discussing ethics in today’s business world. The author presented that same question in a thought provoking way showing there is more depth to its answer than the standard “yes.” The topic may seem simple enough to not even merit discussing, but ethics are a key pillar to becoming a successful, strong businessperson in today’s world.
Know your business.
After digging deeper into both current and more historical theories on ethics, I realized that deliberative decision-making is the most critical aspect of living up to your values. This means not only making good personal decisions, but also knowing who you are doing business with. During a time when it’s become commonplace to question everything we are told and suspect the worst, it is important to understand how our decisions impact others and what steps we can take to be more knowledgeable and thoughtful.
One starting point is asking ourselves if we are the type of person others want to do business with. Is our word impeccable? Do we treat others as well or better than our own standards of treatment? Make the decision to be the person who is unfailingly honest and someone you would want to do business with. Additionally, continue to assume the best in others, but still do your homework.
Know your vendors.
There is always a great deal of focus on customers, but don’t forget your vendors. A key piece of doing business ethically is taking the time to know your vendors, whether they are a major manufacturer vital to your production, or an office supply vendor. Top U.S. companies such as Microsoft, the Kellogg Company, Micron and Marriott International have incorporated an Ethics & Compliance Program to ensure standards are being met. On a smaller scale, you can determine how much value you place on where and how products are sourced. If it’s important, vendors you select won’t make purchases at someone else’s expense, nor will they manufacture or sell products to the detriment of their workers or the environment.
Another important piece to working with the right vendors is reviewing your charges. Pay attention to what you are invoiced for and if it doesn’t make sense, then ask. This is especially true for professional service firms you may hire. Do business with companies that are honest in their billing practices and ensure that you are not overcharged for time and/or out of pocket expenses that are not accurate. If in doubt, don't hesitate to inquire about discrepancies. Firms that are honest in their invoicing practices will not mind and will want to ensure that they are correct. Also, awareness is key. Pointing out practices that conflict with your professional standards may be the first step towards improvement for other companies.
Take the time to know your values and draw a clear line on where you will not compromise. Taking a stand may not always be an easy path. The truth of the matter is that we all want to do the right thing but the demands and pressures to always meet our goals and exceed expectations can lead us astray. It doesn’t have to be this way. Despite the challenges we face today, we can all slow down and be more deliberate in our decision making and relationships to ensure we are the best we can be to others and to our environment.