“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” — Alan K. Simpson
Starting a small business is hard; we all know that, the odds are stacked against you at every turn. Costs can be astronomical with tiny profits and we see small businesses come and go like the weather. It may be tempting to make a few shortcuts, perhaps employ some slightly less than ethical practices to try and rack up that profit margin, but this is no way to start out your business. It is crucial to start as you mean to go on. There is research, carried out by the Institute of Business Ethics [IBE], claiming that companies with codes of ethics/conduct significantly outperform those without, suggesting that ‘virtue pays’. Society is increasingly moving towards environmental protection and accountable business. It is important to incorporate these into your business from the outset. It can be overwhelming with endless lists of tasks and considerations when starting up but plan for it from the start with these helpful tips.
It might seem like an a ‘good’ idea to provide low quality products and services in the early days when you are trying to increase your profit margins, but, despite the potential for saving time and money now, this is likely to backfire and harm your reputation and is definitely not ethical practice.
Make sure you supply is clean. You might not always be able to follow your products back through the supply chain, but at least attempt to build up an ethical chain by asking companies that you work with about their environmental policies. Then you can build up a network that you feel comfortable with as you are confident in their diligence.
Be honest with your pricing. Again, when you are desperately trying to increase your profit margin it may be tempting to charge a little more. Remember to always keep the true value in mind or your customer may feel cheated and this will only harm you in the long run.
Reduce your own environmental impact. Think of the carbon footprint of your business and be vigilant with energy saving. Encourage all your employees to switch off lights and workstations when not in use. Recycle responsibly.
Involve yourself in local issues and show yourself to be a responsible contributor to the community and this in turn will increase awareness of your brand.
When you are literally counting every penny or cent, it can be hard to continue to stick to ethical principle when you may watch other companies in your field make money through dubious practices, but remember you are in this for the long haul. You believe in ethical responsibility and corporate social responsibility [CSR]. Jobs are scarce, and small business face big challenges, but if you stick to what you believe in and plug away rather than being tempted by quick results then you will retain your integrity and customers will believe in you too.
About the Author
Sam Wright is a journalist working with PR Week Jobs.