Tag Archive for 'Albert Camus'

Observing the Small Business Code of Ethics

Since humans are capable of abstract thought and sophisticated language, our behavior often blurs the lines between black and white into what is known as “the gray area.”

Consequently, the desire for order motivated the establishment of ethical standards to encourage acceptable personal behavior, contracts to encourage legal behavior, and courts to sort things out when a final authority is required.

When it comes to ethical behavior, professionals have lots of help. Attorneys, CPAs, doctors, architects, investment professionals, etc., have established and published very specific ethical and professional standards, plus monitoring organizations complete with sanctioning authority. Indeed, part of their education and certification requires knowledge of that profession’s ethical standards and practices.

But when small business owners find themselves in the gray area with a customer or other business relationship, there is no sanctioning entity we can call on for guidance. We’re on our own; because The Universal Code of Small Business Professional Conduct and Ethics doesn’t exist.

Having now been in the marketplace in six different decades, I’m pleased to report that the moral compass, sense of fair play, and inclination to deal in good faith on Main Street is exemplary. Small business owners consistently demonstrate that life is much simpler – and more rewarding – when they just do the right thing. No doubt they regularly turn to ancient codes for behavioral guidance, including the Golden Rule and the 8th and 9th Commandments.

In addition to these, allow me to recommend three other principles which come in handy when you find yourself in the gray area, perched on the horns of an ethical dilemma. One is from an ancient philosopher, one from a 20th century Nobel Laureate, and one from a 21st century ethics thought leader.

On Transparency: “The way to live with honor is to be in reality what you appear to be.” Socrates, 5th century B.C.

On Integrity: “Integrity has no need of rules,” Albert Camus, from “The Myth of Sisyphus” (1942).

On Ethics: “Ethics is devotion to the unenforceable,” Len Marrella, author of In Search of Ethics (2005).

Here are all three delivered in one sentence: “John, I noticed one of the terms you wanted was left out when we signed the final contract. Even though the contract is in force, I did agree to that point. So let’s put it back in and resign the contract.”

Devotion to the unenforceable, thy name is small business.

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On my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I’ve had many conversations with Len Marrellafounder and president of the Center for Leadership and Ethics and author of In Search of Ethics – Conversations with Men and Women of Character. Click here to see them all and download or listen.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

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Integrity has no need of rules

While talking with an attorney friend of mine, our topic of discussion was about professional behavior in the marketplace. She reminded me that attorneys have very specific ethical and professional standards that are published, plus a well-developed monitoring organization, complete with sanctioning authority.

The story is quite similar for CPAs, architects, medical doctors, or any securities representative such as stock brokers, financial planners, etc. Much of the behavioral track these professionals run on is pretty well spelled out for them. Not that the members of these groups need to be led or coerced into good professional behavior. It’s just that, when in doubt, they have published guidelines with which to refer.

Small business owners operate in the same marketplace as the so-called professionals. Indeed, they are often our clients and customers. We serve the same businesses and consumers as other professionals, plus we enter into similar relationships, contracts and agreements. And we often find ourselves perched precariously on the same horns-of-a-dilemma as other prefessionals, But here’s the difference: The Universal Small Business Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics doesn’t exist.

Small business owners, like all humans, ultimately behave according to their own moral compass, sense of fair play and inclination to deal in good faith. When we find ourselves in a quandary over how to respond to a difficult situation that is in the gray area of a contract, we’re on our own. When we are faced with an ethical issue that would challenge King Solomon, there is no sanctioning body or support group to dial up, to to whom we can email a “scenario.”

There are many ancient codes small business owners can turn to for behavioral guidance in the marketplace, such as the last three of the Ten Commandments. But in terms of a handy guide, I think philosopher and 1957 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Albert Camus, may have given us the best ethical vector when he wrote, “Integrity has no need of rules.”

Wise small business owners know that life is much simpler, and exceedingly more rewarding, when we just do the right thing.

I’ve talked quite a bit about ethics with Len Marrella, founder and president of the Center for Leadership and Ethics and author of In Search of Ethics – Conversations with Men and Women of Character.

To see all of our conversations and either listen or download, click here.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!




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