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The Steps for Strategic Planning - By Bill Boyer
We are constantly bombarded by news stories that cause us to question whether we are still functioning with high ethical standards. There are some good indications that ethical behavior is becoming more important. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found in a recent survey of graduates that they are much more likely to avoid employers they perceived as engaging in unethical behavior than were graduates in 1982. Many business schools are adding ethics courses. Maybe this is why the survey had the results it had. Turney Steven, currently Dean of Lipscomb University's College of Business and formerly in investment banking, has served as a public director of many companies. He stated in 2008 that he has seen a general deterioration in honesty and civility in business. He has seen many situations where agreements have been reached, and then negotiations reopened when one of the parties has the leverage to do so. Reaching an agreement and sticking with it is the honorable way to do business. He also states that people do not necessarily honor truth as he was brought up to honor truth.
Dr. Les Patich at Baylor University has studied surveys of large and small companies which show that smaller companies feel a great deal more pressure to be unethical than larger companies. Most larger companies have well-documented and well-enforced ethical standards, whereas some people feel that small companies have more opportunities to "bend the rules". But even the actions of many larger companies in the recent past indicate a lack of ethics as we read in the press.
The Institute of Business Ethics in a research study found that companies who display a clear commitment to ethical conduct consistently outperformed companies that do not display ethical conduct. These findings deserve to be considered when striving for long-term success.
What are some of the principals of business ethics that we admire?
Be Trustworthy: Customers want to do business with a company they can trust. It is easily recognizable. Trust can be defined as reliance on the character, ability, strength, and truth of the business.
Meet Obligations: Regardless of the circumstances, do everything you can to gain and maintain your customer's and client's trust, even when something has gone wrong. Reclaim lost business by honoring all commitments and obligations.
Be Respectful: Treat others with total respect. Regardless of differences in age, titles, positions and any other distinctions, always be respectful and courteous with everyone.
Keep an Open Mind: This is hard to do at times, but for your company's continuous improvement, you must be open to new ideas. Ask for opinions and feedback from customers and your team members. And indicate that you have listened.
Have Clear Documents: Review and evaluate all print materials including advertising, brochures and other business documents to be sure they are clear, precise, and professional. Be sure everyone understands the documents. Ask others to read them for clarity and understandability. Do not leave any opportunity for misrepresentation or misinterpretation.
Maintain Accounting Control: Takes a hands-on approach to accounting and record keeping, not only as a means of measuring the financial progress of your company, but also to be on the lookout for questionable expenses and/or sales. If your accounting records are watched closely by another senior person in addition to your accountant/bookkeeper, you probably will catch any dubious activity. This does not mean that your accountant/bookkeeper is doing anything wrong. We all overlook things accidentally and a second "set of eyes" can be very critical.
Be Involved in Your Community: Remain involved in community related issues and activities, demonstrating that your business is a responsible community contributor.
Every company must have a written code of conduct, whether it be a company ethics code or an employee code of conduct. It must deal with ethics, conflicts of interest, confidentiality, legal and tax compliance, and other such matters. It should protect the integrity and legal liability of the employees, customers, and business partners. It should make your employees be proud to be a part of your business. It should be updated often (at least once a year) because laws, policies, and regulations do change. It must be signed by all employees. It is also good to give a copy to your business partners and customers.
The distinguishing quality of practicing admirable business ethics is one of the most important attributes of a small business that succeeds. Business ethics should be the heart and soul of a company's culture. It will probably mean the difference in success and failure.
"If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters." By Alan K. Simpson, Senator from Wyoming (1979-95)
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The Steps for Strategic Planning - By Bill Boyer
About the Author: Bill Boyer
RSS for Bill's articles - Visit Bill's website
Bill Boyer has over 35 years experience working with businesses, from small to major international corporations with extensive experience in operations, distribution and finance. Bill has held CEO, COO, CFO, and other VP positions with Burlington Industries, The Disston Company and Hickson PLC and other corporations. He has also been an individual coach/consultant with many smaller corporations. Bill holds a BS in Industrial Management from the University of Richmond, and is a graduate of executive programs at the University of Virginia.
He specializes in helping companies achieve organizational effectiveness and operational efficiency.
Click here to visit Bill's website.
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