Principles, Morals & Values- Business Ethics

Pick up your newspaper and turn to the business or the local news sections.  Seems like you’ll find business ethics and formal indictment charges against someone. 

Are you kidding me?  Just yesterday I found three examples of this:   First example– local business man avoids paying sales tax for two consecutive years running.   Second example–  two mortage loan officers indicted for arranging straw buyers in condo scheme.   Third example-  big bank pays $110 million fine for disclosure problems in their loan portfolio.  

Its real simple.  Poor personal ethics leads to poor business ethics.  While I am concerned about whether our Government has the skill, the will, and the courage to stop spending and downsize to avoid being viewed as financially inept, I am more bothered by a growing trend to take shortcuts, plead ignorance, cheat, and be dishonest. 

How many times can we continue to point our fingers and blame others for our problems and shortcomings?  We are becoming a nation that is morally and ethically bankrupt, and it must stop right now.  Our business ethics flat out stink.

Why should you listen to me and what credentials do I bring to this discussion?  My entire career has been in sales and marketing and spent twenty years in the information technology marketplace most recently as a Managing Director for a $22 million networking distribution company.

I have started and owned two new businesses, started up new sales divisions for two publicly held telecommunication companies, been a Board Member for a $225 million company, and served as a Board Advisor for an eco-friendly green products company. 

Guess what?  I was convicted for two felonies against a major computer company for mail fraud/wire fraud and money laundering.  I spent ten and a half months away from my family in a federal prison camp and halfway house.  My personal values led to poor business ethics which led to incarceration and financial penalties.

Let me be clear about one thing:  I only blame myself and point ten fingers at my own tummy for my behavior.   Hint:  try pointing your ten fingers at the tummy.  Not so easy is it?

As an officer of a privately held family company, I oversaw a scheme ten years ago to defraud a multi-billion dollar publicly held company out of computer parts we were not entitled to receive as mostly retribution for interfering in our business on a continued basis.  It was unacceptable, illegal, and arrogant on my part.  Went on for twenty months!!  See the link between personal ethics and business ethics?

In my view, the lack of ethical business practices we see, observe, and read about on a daily basis is directly tied to our lack of personal ethics.  The foundation of our ethical behavior is morals, principles, and values. 

They represent the highest standards for conduct that tower over legal law.  When we talk about ethics in general, my definition is very simply the process of learning what is right or wrong, then doing what is right.  You can’t put yourself on the top step of the ladder and expect to defy the odds.  The Justice Department Casino has a big bank and you will take a big fall.

The accumulation of money, power, possessions, and the pursuit of the American dream has led this country down the wrong path. 

We count the prizes we collect and conveniently forget who we ran over along the way.  We can do better than this, and I would argue it is our moral and humanitarian obligation to help others who are more impoverished, more needy, less privileged, and in need of help than us.

Every organization in this country can examine their own business ethics and make ethical behavior as important as expanding revenues. 

Business ethics and personal ethics go hand in hand and cannot be placed in a child’s booster seat.  They deserve the front seat at all times.  It is vital that we teach our children core values and principles; we hope and envision them showing others respect, consideration, and courtesy. 

Our grade schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities need to start leading rather than following when it comes to personal and business ethics.  Additionally, this takes superior leadership from our Government and business community. 

It is high time to quit making excuses and step up to the plate.  We all can do it and we all must do it.

Always strive to do the right thing using your own defined morals, principles, and values.  If you are unsure what the right thing is, seek out trusted counsel from a family member, friend, pastor, or someone you respect. 

We will all be better off in the long run.



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4 Responses to Principles, Morals & Values- Business Ethics

  1. Chris July 20, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Speaking of schools; there have been several recent reports of public school systems cheating. Instead of providing ethics leadership, as you suggest, approximately 180 Atlanta teachers conspired to falsify test scores. This was condoned and promoted by the school board administrators, in an attempt to gain monetary rewards (more tax dollars).

    While it is “free” to send your children to public schools, it is unfortunate that they cost 2-3 times more per child as many private schools, which have tighter budgets and lower administrative costs. Sadly, despite the higher per student costs, the majority of public school students receive a poor education.

    Public schools tend to focus on the lowest common denominator, discourage competition and promote social engineering, rather than providing a quality education that focuses on basics. This helps explain why students from third world countries fare so much better on college admission tests than US students.

    • admin July 20, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

      Chris, thank you for your comment. According to the Educational Testing Service/The Advertising Council campaign to discourage academic cheating, between 75 and 98 percent of college students surveyed each year report having cheated in high school. In addition, students who cheat often feel justified in what they are doing. They cheat because they see others cheat and they think they will be unfairly disadvantaged. Cheating is seen by many students as a means to a profitable end. This type of a shortcut doesn’t end at graduation either, and in fact can lead to character misrepresentation and resume fraud for companies.

      It is dispicable and unacceptable for our adult teachers, principals, and others to have conspired to falsify test scores in the various Atlanta school districts. Confirmed cheating took place in 44 of 56 schools investigated with at least eighty people admitting their roles. The former Superintendent of the Atlanta School District of course denied that she or her staff were aware of this taking place. According to investigators, documents related to the cheating were altered or destroyed. In addition, investigators were lied to, given false information, and obstructed as they attempted to gather all of the facts in the case.

      We will see who is punished criminally and or reprimanded once the final investigation is completed. This is another example of people placing their own interests first in front of the welfare and interests of others. The ME
      in people can easily transcend doing the right thing. It is obvious that in this case many people in the school districts failed to draw on the correct morals, principles, and values that would have halted their participation in this scheme.

  2. alanwohl July 21, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    Geat Start Mark. Your top photo is the same photo that my lawyer uses to front his website….
    One wouldn’t seem to think that acting ethically would be so hard. Maybe we worry too much about how see seem to the outside world and forget (or repress) how we look to ourselves as we look in the mirror each morning. We must remember that it is more what we do and less what we think that determines ethics.

    • admin July 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

      Alan, thank you for your thoughts. We do worry about our appearances to the outside world rather than focusing on who we are, what be believe, and what we stand for. The more we work on our inner self and think about our morals, principles, values, etc., this will result in good deeds that are unselfish and help others. This leads to quality repetition and good behavior. Ethical law will always have higher standards and thresholds than legal law.

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