Follow Business Ethics: Success Follows

It is always a known fact that shortcuts are many to reach the goal and people take different paths to attain success. A path without ethics also gains success but this is likely for a very short period and solely with the purpose of making a quick buck. A person entering into business of any kind need to make focus on two issues:

1. Why am I doing the business?
2. Am I building it the right way?

If a person is clear about these two, he is reasonably assured of success. Now, the question arises that if people are clear about these concepts why is it that every business is not a success?

The main issue to understand is that companies do not fail: it is people within those companies who fail to adhere to ethical standards. If the person is in a senior and responsible position, the likelihood of the company failing are higher. Failures of persons in senior positions to demonstrate ethical standards both publicly and frequently is likely to cascade down the level.

Business ethics involves examining appropriate constraints on the pursuit of self-interest, profits, when the actions of individuals or firms affects others. Some of the recent failures that have caused unnecessary pain to the business world include:

1. The failure of Satyam (which unfortunately, means “truth” in Hindi) due to the CXOs conniving to manipulate the books of accounts. Was it not for the Government and some white knights, the company would have been history. The failure of Satyam is endemic in that the cause was a conscious and persistent focus on unethical methods.
2. Lehman Brothers, and others of their brethren brought upon themselves the failures due to a greedy and single minded focus on wealth amassment, both individual and corporate with complete irreverence to the ethics of proper corporate behavior.
3. After Arthur Andersen, Ernst and Young’s is now likely to be bitten by the same bug. Turning the other way and ‘permitting’ such unethical behavior does have its consequences which need to be borne.

Larger companies have typically set up many processes to ensure business ethics. These include Corporate Governance policies, separate committees (or sub-committees) for ensuring arms length transactions, etc.

Sarbenes-Oxley policies have been set up mainly to avoid issues of compromise on arms length transactions. While values tend to get obfuscated in larger organizations, in smaller organizations it is necessary to drive some of the ethics of business early enough.

Some of the rules for success in establishing the right ethics include:

1. Focus on your core philosophies of business. Revenue at any cost cannot be the motto for success.
2. Remain steadfast in your thoughts and processes. Lure of quick money is quite common; more often than not it results in failure either to achieve client objectives, or realization of the promised pot of gold.
3. Set some basic, easy to follow ethics to be followed in the business. Ensure that these meet the lowest common denominator within the organization so that there is little internal resistance to follow.
4. Be persistent in sending out the message out to everyone within the organization. Outside the organization, ensure that you are recognized for your value systems.
5. Finally, find champions within the organization to propagate these value systems.

Business ethics is mainly about attitude: as much as 85% of success is on account of attitude, and as little as 15% of success is due to abilities.

Of course, the best way to move toward being the most honest and ethical person within the organization is to surround yourself with those who possess an even higher level of integrity and ethical decision making.


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