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Business Ethics



Tim Levchenko-Scott June 2008


The longer I'm in business, the more important I find business ethics to be. I've been surprised - perhaps naively so - at how many examples there are of poor business ethics. Perhaps the most surprising, is the number of people who 'talk a good game' when it comes to business ethics, but who don't demonstrate the standards they profess to believe in.

If someone had asked me a few years ago what business ethics was all about, I would have assumed it was mainly a reference to not being dishonest, particularly with money. Of course, that is an important part of business ethics, but to me, I believe that there is a raft of basic behaviours, which every business person should adhere to. If a business person is following these simple commitments it will show others that they have good business ethics. These simple rules should be followed with integrity and consistency, in a genuine way. Then, if and when an opportunity to be dishonest comes along, the business person will be much less likley to succumb to temptation. The dishonest act would simply be completely at odds with who they are and how they behave.

So, my simple list goes like this:

Be reliable.

Turn up on time. Do what you said you would do. If some genuine reason prevents this, ring up and apologise. So many business people, especially trades people, but also many others, say that they will do something, and then don't do it. This lets others down. It makes a huge difference if you are known as someone who is reliable. In the trades, I believe you can easily charge at the top of the acceptable range for your hourly rate, even for the most mundane jobs, if you can legitimately claim to be the most reliable tradesman in your field and back this up.

If you are engaging in a business arrangement with another person, it is essential to be reliable about following through on commitments. If you say that you will organise something by next Friday, then that's exactly what you must do. It's not acceptable to make the other person have to remind you and chase you around.

Be Particular About Money in Business

Business is about money. It's about making money. How you are with money reveals an awful lot about you. If someone is due a rebate, make sure they get it promptly and correctly. If you are responsible for any collective funds or for another persons funds, treat this as a big responsibility. Show that you are being very careful and provide them with necessary information. It doesn't matter how small the amounts involved.

Dealing with money in an honest and transparent manner, and especially being honest and careful with other people's money, is one of the best ways of showing that you have good business ethics. People will come to trust you. This can only be good for your business in the long run.

Be Fair

Have a fair returns policy. If resolving a problem or conflict, be fair. Not weak - fair. If you employ people, be fair. Make your policies fair. Sometimes fair means firm. Sometimes it means saying 'no'. People have an inherent sense of what's fair. They respect fair managers and business people. Transparency and consistency are the order of the day when it comes to good business ethics.

Follow Up

Follow up referrals. Make contact with a referral within a day or two. Give feedback to those who refer to you. Don't leave things hanging in the air. Even if a situation seems like a waste of time or not appropriate, tie up the loose ends. If necessary, let someone know why a given referral is not appropriate.

Follow up clients. Make sure everything is OK. Be sincere about this. After sales service is essential to good business.

Know Your Limitations

Don't be the 'over-promise-under-deliver' champions of your town. If you can't do it - say so. Whether it's due to time commitments or because you're not really skilled in that area, say so. People understand. Sometimes business people behave as if they have to say yes to everything, as though they'll miss out if they don't. They end up ruining their reputation.



These are a few basic things which I believe are essential in business. Let me know if you think there should be other business ethics on this list. I'm sure there's more to add. By following these straightforward principles, a business person builds trust and confidence with the people around them. This is bound to lead to more referrals and opportunites in the future


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