“An organization, no matter how well designed, is only as good as the people who live and work in it." -Dee Hock, author and businessman
Competitive advantage is about finding a “hole in the market,” something that other competitors would have trouble providing. If you have strong and observable business ethics and core values, you have a huge competitive advantage, because you are different from most others.We live in a world full of distrust. Scandals seem to be everywhere, including in our own backyard. Almost every day we hear about lies, fraud, embezzlement, and worse. They're often from people we should trust: doctors, pharmacists, professors, bankers, and other business owners. When asked to explain, the excuse they give is usually that they couldn’t have been successful without cheating, or that they were just doing what others do. If that’s true, that’s sad for them and for anyone they work with. But it's potentially good for you and for those who choose to work with you.
Your ethics can be a great customer benefit and a powerful sales tool
It isn’t easy being ethical. Business ethics require an established, dependable culture that is based on ethical values like trust, openness, respect and integrity.
If you can demonstrate that business ethics are a critical part of your business, that’s a unique benefit of doing business with you over others. It can help you stand out from the crowd. It can mean more sales, even higher value sales. People know they can trust you to deliver what you promise and not take advantage of them.
If you are for real, those customers will become your unpaid sales force. They will share the benefit of using an ethical business with their peers. Those peers will share with others, and on and on. This could be the sales tool you’re missing, but it has to be provable. You could do that by:
- Passing the test to become a Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional (CCEP)®
- Going back to college to get a degree in ethics
- Hiring someone who is certified or degreed.
- Set up a business ethics culture
- Create and publish a code of ethics to operate by
Are you taking advantage of your business ethics sales tool and competitive advantage?
What are you doing to let people know how ethical you are? Here are some companies (including my own) that shout it out:
- The Oro Verde, a four-star hotel in Quito, Ecuador, has their core values on a plaque where visitors check in.
- Body Business, a fitness gym in Austin, Texas, has theirs posted where anyone who walks by can see them through the window, or as they walk to one of the exercise rooms inside.
- Ipsos MORI, a worldwide research firm, makes it very clear to its customers in everything they do just whom they are dealing with.
- The Business Success Center’s ethics, goals and core values are on our website. We always encourage our business owner clients to create their own and have printed copies as examples.
According to journalist David Prosser, small businesses have a unique advantage in demonstrating their ethics. Their owners and managers are more visible than the leaders of larger firms. They can more easily illustrate and set the tone for others to follow.
Ethics are an important tool to include in sales and marketing contacts. They've almost become a requirement. In the manufacturing industry, businesses are often asked about their ethical credentials by their supply chain partners.
How can you remain competitive in business ethics?
- If you have a code of ethics or core values, be proud of it and show it off. Here’s how:
- To create your own business ethics, see the drafts at Institute of Business Ethics and check out the Josephson Institute.
- Treat your core values as a living, breathing organism. Review it regularly and be open to making additions and corrections.
- Make sure your business is a risk taker when it comes to ethics by adopting the hard road, not the easy one.
- Encourage others you do business with (both those you buy from and sell to) to be more ethical and act more responsibly at all times.
- Are you sure enough of your business ethics to test them?
- Take the Business Success Center’s business ethics poll to see how you would react in these situations.
“The more moral the people are in their business dealings, the less paperwork you need, the more handshakes you can have, the more the wheels of capitalism work better, because there's trust in the marketplace. Business ethics is not a joke. And, in fact, I think most businesses that I've dealt with encourage exactly that type of behavior.” -Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania Senator