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Business Ethics: Helping Others is Good All the Way Around

Bottom Line on IntegrityMost people think that helping and serving others is all about altruism. Certainly this is the highest motivation. But have you thought about the others? When you create a positive, helpful, giving environment in your business, your blog, your life, that contributes to a greater quality of life for all those around you — and for you in return. And the credibility this builds also tends to fatten up your bottom line. (Would you rather go to the mechanic who reattached the wire without charge, or the one who replaced a perfectly working part?)

How do you navigate the business world while maintaining a life of honor and integrity? You must create a business philosophy that fits in a moral value set. Below are a couple of resources that can help any blogger, business owner, or entrepreneur.

My favorite book of all time — on the topic of business or otherwise — is The Bottom Line on Integrity: 12 Principles for Higher Returns. If you read with an open heart, this thought-provoking book (originally published as Is Lying Sometimes the Right Thing for an Honest Person to Do?: How Self-Interest and the Competitive Business World Distort Our Moral Values and What We Should Do About It) will turn your head inside-out. Is this a good thing? It is if you intend to have a moral base for your business.

Author Quinn McKay discussed two value sets that we’ve come to accept in the world. The first is traditional ethics, the second is gaming ethics. Gaming ethics describes what you might see in a sporting event. We all know that football players “hold” — but how much holding can the offense or defense engage in before a penalty is called. We all know basketball players elbow and push — but how much is “too much,” when will a foul be called? We don’t hold a hard ethical line in sports, we push the line as far as we can get away with. And for the most part, we accept that that is part of the game.

Over time, we have accepted the same kind of cheating in business. Sure, the advertisement is an exaggeration of the product benefits, but what else do you expect?

McKay wades through many such conflicts between ethics and honesty and business success. Other topics include:

  • Avoiding self-deception
  • Watch incremental morality
  • How outside pressures influence morality
  • Sometimes lying is the right thing to do!
  • Golden Rule vs. Success
  • Law of obligation

The book so fascinated me when I first read it (and, trust me, you’ll read it more than once), that I attended a week-long seminar by the author. It’s a book I think every business person should read.

Business EthicsAnother book that delves into this seemingly lost idea of having integrity in all aspects of our lives is There’s No Such Thing As “Business” Ethics: There’s Only One Rule For Making Decisions.

Author John C. Maxwell, with his five common, ethical pitfalls, gives a sound guide for determining what is ethical in a business situation. He reminds you that seeing the ethical line is usually very easy. We tend to make it hard when we try to excuse unethical behavior.

In your blogging ventures, it is my hope that you will be honest and straightforward. When you recommend a product, do so with integrity. When you criticize someone/something, be fair and clear.

You will find that the kind of world you create for others, tends to be the same one you end up living in yourself.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Jimi Jones January 15, 2010, 11:54 pm

    Really nice article with great resources, Alison.
    Being honest and straightforward goes a long way in life.
    .-= Jimi Jones´s last blog ..Blog Masters Club to Relaunch =-.

  • Dana January 16, 2010, 4:53 am

    One thing about helping others that i know is that we must help our self first.
    .-= Dana @ Blogging Update´s last blog ..The Right Website Design Company Can Help Your Business =-.

  • Jared P Little January 16, 2010, 7:44 am

    You need to find that happy balance between self and others but if you help enough people you in turn will end up helping yourself. Also make sure you helping the right people. Don’t keep helping those that don’t appreciate it.
    .-= Jared P Little´s last blog ..Helping Others Important Part To Your Success =-.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 16, 2010, 6:30 pm

    Thanks for commenting!

    I do think we need to be self-reliant and take care of ourselves, but whether or not that means helping another first or second really depends on the situation, IMO. Unfortunately, I think US culture is much more likely to encourage us to self-indulgence than to charitable giving and to getting ahead than to honesty. In the long run, the climate that creates hurts us all.

  • bbrian017 January 18, 2010, 1:35 pm

    Hi Alison nice write up. I’m not a big reader of books but if I ever take it up I’ll be sure to give your suggestions a try.

    It’s only obvious helping another individual will in return help you but there’s also a third party. As you do something nice form someone they in return do something nice for anther person. What we have started here is like a domino affect.

    This proves that helping each others is a good and positive thing to accomplish.
    .-= bbrian017´s last blog ..How to Write Extremely Good Content =-.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 18, 2010, 3:05 pm

    The “pay it forward” concept. Absolutely.

    I’m kind of on a quest to persuade people — whether one is personally religious or not — that an intact value system is really best for all of us and is, in fact, the civilizing feature of a culture.

  • Brad Harmon January 27, 2010, 3:19 am


    Your example of the mechanic reminds me of something my grandfather used to do. He would always tip mechanics an extra $5 or $10 dollars directly as a way of saying thank you. It could be a one minute fix, or a free tire repair – it didn’t matter. It wasn’t a lot of money, but that little gesture meant a lot to these mechanics.

    It was amazing to watch people’s reaction when I told them my name and they would always ask if I was related to my grandfather. His reputation was priceless around town, and I knew if I ever needed any help from a mechanic that the mere mention of his name brought me all the best efforts from them.

    Thanks for sparking that memory.

    .-= Brad Harmon´s last blog ..What’s Your Small Business Two Minute Drill? =-.

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