This session was unlike any discussion or reading about business ethics I have ever experienced. I attended to support our college's initiative. I came unprepared. No pad. No pen. No laptop. I now regret. (Lesson learned.) What I encountered were three professionals detailing experience after experience describing how ethical business is good business. No rose-colored glasses here but down in the trenches, here's what happened, here's what we lost, here's what we gained. In each case an ethics audit resulted in changed policies, procedures, or training. It was simply the best discussion on the practical side of workplace ethics I have ever heard.
I continue to think about that session. I wonder about large companies who may appoint an officer whose title includes "Ethics", such as VP for Ethics and Compliance. Is this like "quality" was in many organizations in the 1980s and 1990s? We appoint someone to a position, we can point to the position, there may be some initiatives, but the culture is not affected.
Small businesses are different. They must live out the real meaning of customer value. They have to know the benefits derived from their products or services and the sacrifices of the customer in buying, using, or disposing. Most importantly, they have to have a genuine relationship with their customers. The bedrock of that relationship for every (or at least most) successful small businesses is trust. The exchange is one of fairness. Call it a good reputation. Ethical conduct is more than an interesting conversation over your favorite beverage. Ethical conduct is in the trenches, all employees, from back office to front line. Ethical conduct is fundamental, sound business practice.
Image. From left to right: Michael Dawson, VP for Marketing & Public Relations, Cincinnati BBB; Jeff Daniher, Co-Founder, Ritter Daniher Financial Advisory, LLC; Liz Carter, Executive Director, Society of St. Vincent de Paul; Greg Hyland, President, Cooper Electric, Board Member, BBB. Image by J. Ballard. Permission granted to use image from participants.