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Unethical business

Is your business ethical? 5 point checklist

We only have to take a quick look at the News of the World debacle to understand the importance of trading fairly and ethically in business.  And it’s not just the threat of your company being brought into ruin that should have you shying away from dodgy dealings – research has also shown that an ethical business is a successful business.

So how do we get there?

Not many people start a business with the intention of trading unethically.  Most business owners create and integrate a set of values to form the framework of their business dealings; revolving largely around words such as ‘integrity’, ‘ethically’ and ‘trust’.  Including News Corp.  They reference upholding ‘The Integrity of the Law’ as one if their key standards of business conduct.

While it’s doubtful that as SME’s, any of us would ever find ourselves staring down the barrel of a scandal on quite the same magnitude as News Corp, there are some very important lessons that every business owner can take from this case.  It’s not just enough to make a list of all the values and principles your business will abide by, you actually have to live them.

This isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Here are my top tips for making sure you stay on the straight and narrow in your business practices.

  • Go back to basics.  Take ten minutes to reflect on every decision you make, and ask yourself ‘would I like it if someone did this to me’?  Is it respectful of those that it impacts?  What image does it project?
  • Listen.  You customers will tell you (either directly or indirectly) if they disapprove of a business decision or action.  Make sure you take their feedback on board.
  • Be transparent.  The more open you are to input and critique of your work, the more scrupulous you’ll be in your dealings.
  • Enlist help.  Not every situation is clear cut, and you could be making an unethical decision without even realizing it.  If you’re headed into a new market or industry for the first time, get an expert onboard to ensure you’re not unknowingly breaking any local laws, policies or customs.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right.  Just because someone else in your space is acting unethically, doesn’t make it ok for you to do the same – even if you think it’s giving them a competitive advantage.  In the end, consumers want to deal with someone they trust, and dishonorable business practices will eventually catch up with you.  Appreciate that you can’t change their behavior, but you can choose your own.

What steps do you take to ensure you’re always trading ethically?