When I first sat to write about Business Ethics, I thought it would be a quick and almost polite reminder that being ethical is purely knowing the difference between Right and Wrong, and always choosing Right. It’s so easy! It’s how I was brought up, it’s how I am raising mine, including at the workplace.
Nevertheless, as I read further and plunged into real life examples, I wondered for a minute, is it possible to have a business that observes ethics 100%?
I recently watched a short clip on the reduction of Kenya Police Service salaries, and a few policemen who were interviewed were very honest, “that if you cut my pay by almost half, and I have loans to pay and mouths to feed, and a criminal offers me money to assist him commit a crime, how will I refuse? I am human”
I believe that lack of ethics arguably translates to breaking the law – while ethics are not governed by courts of law, the lack thereof mostly leads to crime. Take that policeman for instance, the ethics of his business guides that he should not be compromised by a civilian in any way. If he lets down his guard, he will take the bribe or facilitate a crime which really is unlawful.
So how do we as young entrepreneurs ensure ethics in our businesses? In the service industry, a few examples of things that could go wrong are overcharging clients, using different products from the ones we are supposed to, taking shortcuts etc. How do you as a business owner ensure your staff follow the Right values to the letter?
- Leadership – examples must be set from the top. If you take a shortcut, so will your staff. If you undermine an incident where a client has been surcharged because you made an extra buck, they will follow suit.
- Integrity – you must preach water and drink water. You really must be true to your word in your offering, and you must treat both your customers and your staff fairly
- Values – Your business must have a Vision, a Mission Statement and Core Values – principles by which you govern your business and everything you do must be guided by those values. If something is against your core values, you create an opportunity for unethical behavior
- Respect – Ethics and Respect are forever in tandem. You must respect your employees for them to respect each other, your customers and also you. You must show respect for governing bodies and also the environment. You must not shrug your shoulders on ‘Kanjo’ and management companies because the moment you turn your back, they will do the same to another body or supplier who you would cringe at the thought of disrespecting
- Loyalty – an ethical business will remain loyal to its employees, partners suppliers, even when challenges arise. Businesses are built on relationships with different people and other businesses. Anyone will trust and want to work with a business that is loyal and values relationships
In conclusion, sometimes we may be pushed to the wall and bat an eyelid to do something we know isn’t right. However, I strongly believe that one goof can kill your entire business. One tiny little bad decision can completely tank you down. Always ask yourself, is it really worth it?