How To Be Ethical And Still Make A Profit
The old saying “there is no room for sentiment in business” is perhaps one of the most poorly-aged takes in all of finance. The idea behind it is, of course, that if you want to get ahead as an entrepreneur, you need to be prepared to be unpopular. This idea pervades in places today, with the idea of hard-faced investors that care only about the bottom line, but the reality is very different; in this day and age, when ethics are increasingly important to potential customers, they have to be important to budding business people.
The tricky thing is that ethics can be detrimental to the opportunity to make a quick buck. If you are prepared to lie in your advertising, use weasel words in your sales and return policies, and shrug off any resulting controversy, you can profit from it in the short term. That short-term benefit can be seductive, but it is worth remembering that it is only short-term. Perhaps equally importantly, you should also remember that building a positive reputation can deliver longer-term, more sustained profits.
Put something back in your community
One of the most reliable tropes in all of TV drama and comedy is the wealthy business owner who looks down their nose at the “lesser” mortals who live close by. That’s essentially the opposite of the reputation you want to have if you are looking to gain the best reputation. The mantra of “putting something back” has to be foremost in your mind, so helping with fundraising in the community is an important part of reputation marketing. Sponsoring a local sports team, funding a scholarship or two, and mentoring other businesses are also positive steps.
Show your commitment to responsibility
It may be easier and quicker to turn a profit if you don’t care who (or what) you tread on in the pursuit of that quick buck. However, increasing numbers of customers will turn their backs on a business that has a lax attitude to personal and corporate responsibility. If you’re having work done on your premises and it could affect motorists nearby, contact traffic control well in advance and work with people to make arrangements. On a more proactive note, get behind environmental initiatives such as tree planting and litter picking to keep your area greener.
Be an open book
One of the most important aspects of ethical business is a readiness to answer any questions and, indeed, invite them from interested parties. A lack of transparency in business rarely looks good from the outside. Publishing detailed financial records including tax returns will help you to show your business in the best light. Better yet, part of being an “open book” in a business sense is inviting interested comment from potential customers and people in the community. This allows you to give the public what they want and may prevent you making business decisions which could hurt you.
Keeping positive ethics and building a good reputation will stand your business in good stead in the long run. Turning aside the quick profits and sitting in for the long haul may be tough, but it will benefit you in the end.