What ever happened to Ethics in Business?

Ethics, it’s a word that gets bandied around with gay abandon in business circles and personal relationships, but I am beginning to wonder if we remember what it means.

The simple dictionary definition is “moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity.” Take a minute, read it a few times, look inward and ask yourself how often you have actually experienced true ethical behaviour in your life.

I bring this up, because recently I was confronted with an opportunity to take something from an industry competitor or do the right thing, the ethical thing.

I have close friend who works for an organisation that would look amazing on our company resume, we could leverage that contract to get a swag of business based on their brand name alone. How utterly tempting…

Let me set the scene. My close personal friend calls me, she wants to talk to me about the digital marketing support she is receiving from her current supplier. She has trust in me to provide her with honest advice and support, as I have done for many years on a professional level.

Enter another rival digital marketing agency, they offer a “health check” they point out everything they can think of in an attempt to scare my friend into believing that their existing agency are doing the wrong thing and wasting their hard-earned advertising budget, but they could fix everything and do a far better job.

To be honest, it’s pretty easy to do! Digital marketing is so complicated now that I could easily take any competitors strategy and punch holes all through it, but that is not how good business is done!

I digress, back to my friend. She calls me, very concerned and immediately asks me what we would charge to do their marketing, asking for a proposal outlining my costs and support.

I am now at an ethical crossroad…. Do I take this trust my friend has in me and use it to my professional advantage, or do I help her to make better decisions and understand the issue she is faced with?

I’d like to think I did what most people would do. I explained to my friend what the “health check” agency was doing, a scare tactic used all too often in our industry to discredit good companies who are working hard for their clients. It tears at the fabric of trust, trust in our industry and trust in the work we do and it’s based in miseducation, fear and the unscrupulous desire to make money at any cost.

I told her that jumping ship is not necessarily the best option, to take the information she has been given, talk to her current agency and discuss how they can work together to ensure that genuine gaps in the strategy, if any, can be filled. I told her to give the current agency an opportunity to defend against the accusations levelled against them and the work they do.

I gave her access to my knowledge, I helped her better understand the situation she was faced with and she trusted that. She used that knowledge and understanding, and she spoke to her current agency. They worked on a plan for moving forward together and I have no doubt that my friend will achieve her digital advertising goals with her existing agency and go from strength to strength.

Ethics… they’re important. So please, do yourself and your industry a favour, whatever industry you hail from. Be honest, do better and above all else, be a champion for ethics in your life and in your profession, because good business is great for everyone.