If you are a new entrepreneur, you may be a bit daunted by the term business ethics. However, any small business worth its salt has a basic set of standards that guides the way it does business. It's a principle that you should seriously consider and even sit down and write out; because your code of ethics is how your business defines itself. Your code of business ethics will help you win--and keep--your customers' trust and loyalty.
To develop your own code of business ethics, ask yourself the following questions.
1. How Can I Win My Customer's Trust?
Trust forms the core of every business transaction you do: for example, a customer has faith that you will deliver a certain service or product. In exchange, you have faith that they will pay for the service or product and that their payment is good. In everything you do, make sure that your business holds up its end of the bargain. If you make a promise, make sure you can deliver if at all possible.
2. How Can I Meet All My Obligations?
This question is directly tied to the first question, because in order to win trust, you have to meet your obligations. That means don't promise what you cannot deliver. For example, if you run a graphic design business and you are the only employee, don't promise to deliver a website design faster than you can possibly do it. Realistically assess your situation, know your limits, and work within those parameters.
3. How Can I Keep Accurate Records?
From the very outset of your business, it's vitally important to keep clear and accurate records of everything you do. This means that your accounting records need to be precise and clear. Customer orders and bills must be organized. For even if you are just careless or sloppy, poor record-keeping reflects badly on your business and can even get you into serious trouble. If you are not good at organization or accounting, make sure you make hiring someone who is a priority.
4. How Can I Treat Customers and Others with Respect?
Winning a customer's loyalty means more than just delivering on a promise. It also means treating them with courtesy and respect. You should also treat everyone else who crosses your path in the same manner: from the UPS driver to your banker, from your suppliers to your own employees. From a purely mercenary point of view, you never know when you will be relying on these people for your company's future. It makes sense to build an appreciative relationship with anyone who works with you, for you, or who buys your products or services.
5. How Can I Give Back to My Community?
Another way you gain trust from your customer base is by being active in your community. This shows that you are invested in building a business that benefits your community for the long-term. If you can find ways to join in--by sponsoring school teams, giving back to charities, and so forth--you will be recognized as a company that gives back.
The basic guiding principle of business ethics should always be: Treat others as you wish to be treated. By establishing trust, loyalty, and courteous relationships with your customers, your colleagues, and your community, you are well on your way to building a highly-regarded small business.