Can You Actually Run a Business Honestly?

business ethics
Running an ethical business
Ethical entrepreneurs are always saying that businesses should be run in an ethical manner, with socially responsible endeavours to give back to the community. While those are very respectable, it’s difficult for most of us to run our business honestly. However, it is not impossible.

Many of us tell that we don’t lie to our clients. We only do white lies. This is a misconception, obviously.

Sure, lying or not lying, our business world rewards results. So the common sense for many of us is – as long as we don’t blatantly lie to win business deals, we are good to go.

However, for us entrepreneurs who infuse our faith – what we believe – into our business, such white lies are not acceptable by any standard in any faiths. Whether you are a Christian, Buddhist or Moslem, if you establish your business following what your faith teaches you, any lies are, again, not acceptable.

That’s why many marketers are accused of being liars. Why? Because some of them hide the truth only for the clients to find later on – when contracts are already signed, with fine prints that often neglected by clients (that’s why experts are suggesting clients to read the fine prints – because they often reveal the real truth.)

I am trying hard not to lie to my clients. Why? Because – although telling the truth might cause my prospects to flee – I feel that being an open book is liberating. I understand that the business world will tell you that hiding facts is okay because what’s important is closing the sales quickly; honesty is not really valuable in business negotiation, I assume…

As a business owner, I lied many times – most of them are white lies. And as you might see in movies, small lies will become big lies; cleaning up the mess is resource intensive and you can’t simply win back trust – there are hefty prices to pay when you lie. Moreover, if you believe in God, you will have to reconcile.

So I learned the hard way and eventually chose the no white lies path; and I reap the reward.

A true story before I conclude…

I once pitched my website for a prospective buyer. He seemed very interested and as we are about to agree on terms negotiation, including the price tag, Google updated the PageRank – my website dropped from PageRank 5 to PageRank 4; this should directly impact the price tag we were agreeing upon. PageRank often an important factor in website sales and acquisition, but somehow the prospective buyer didn’t really care (or didn’t know?) about the PageRank update. Nevertheless, it’s part of the deal, so I need to decide on it: Should I shoot white lies or being honest?

So I chose to tell him that the PageRank has been dropped, and so he may call off the deal because it’s not like what I promised him. I choose to lose thousands of dollars but have a peace of mind doing my business.

What happened next is unexpected. He said that he respects my honesty, and because of that he chose to proceed with the deal at my asking price. Thank God – honesty rocks!

Are you ready to be a beacon in business world?

A beacon is located in prominent location, shining in bright light to attract attention so that people who see it can act accordingly.

Your high ethical standard of doing your business will shine like a beacon in your business community. You can make a positive difference and people will look up to you. Clients who respect honesty will be attracted to do business with you.

Take heed, however… by being a beacon, you might experience bad situations from others who don’t really like you for being ethical and honest in your business operations.

But it’s all well-worth it. Challenges are present, but knowing that you are true to your heart and to Whom you believe is fulfilling and enriching your life.

So, responding to this article’s title, my answer is: Yes, you CAN run a business in the highest ethical standard possible – IF you want to.

Ivan Widjaya
Business ethics and honesty