Biz Features

How Ethical Do You Want To Take Your Small Business?

by . February 26th, 2016

Are small business owners ready for a unified code of ethics?

What do medical doctors, CPA’s, civil engineers, architects, lawyers, financial planners, stock brokers have in common? Apart from the need to earn certification to legally practice their jobs in their full capacity, all of these people are bound to follow a very specific code of ethics, unique to the demands of their occupation.

In the vast majority of cases, these professions are under an authority that enforces these codes of ethics, and deviations from such can lead to the offender being barred from practicing that profession.

Here’s something you may not have considered: Most business owners and managers are not held accountable in the same way.

This isn’t to say that doctors and stock brokers won’t engage in unacceptable practices. Plenty of them clearly do, and some even get away with it. But this is beside the point. Neither do they always need an authority to force them into behaving. The point of these governing bodies is precisely for the times they inevitably do, and to maintain the reputations of their professions.

The fact that small business owners and managers are not beholden to operate by similar standards is quite interesting, given the fact they fact many of the same ethical challenges other professionals do.

Small business owners that face ethical dilemmas — basically all of them — have nothing to go on but their own individual moral code. Unlike other professionals, Business owners have no guide, no reference books to what constitutes “good behavior”. Sure, you might take up an ethics class or two if you actually went to a business school, but as we all know, no one requires you to have an MBA to start or run a business.

What one business owner or manager might see as something that follows his moral compass might actually be deleterious to others. One example of this is the varying responses business owners have had in response to concerns involving public security when pitted against personal privacy. Apple for example, has recently refused to provide the FBI with a back door to one specific iPhone.

Moral quandaries for business owners extend into the so many facets of life. Should restaurant owners follow tipping customs? Is automation ultimately a good thing even if it means human workers are made redundant? Should you outsource certain types of jobs? Is it ok to pay below a living wage if minimum wage allows it? What the heck is a business owner to do?

Until a universal code of ethics for business and an enforcement body with teeth to go with it comes along, there’s only one thing you can do:

Do whatever helps you sleep better.

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Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.