reply week 3

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Ethics is embedded in every business decision making. As we consider how we interact with others in our personal and professional lives, ethics asks us to ponder on whether our actions are right or wrong. It is common to find ethical frameworks in large corporations, which have set their mission, vision, and values around ethical principles. Many large corporations also have a code of ethics—sometimes included in the employee’s handbook, which is meant to ensure that all employees adhere to certain standards of conduct. At the small business level, however, the situation is different. It appears that implementing an ethical framework in a small company is not easy due to several challenges such as the strong influence that business owners exert on the ethics of the entire organization, difficulty in separating personal and professional decisions, and short-term thinking. In a small business, ethics “is typically influenced by the owner-manager or managing director” (“Business Ethics for SMEs,” 2007). The challenge is that employees may see the ethical principles as those of the owner and not necessarily as part of the organizational culture. Perhaps the business has been growing very fast and the company has not been able to keep up with such growth. This could be compared to laying tracks as a train is moving. A recommended solution would be to have a formal ethics policy in place that would provide guidance to current and future employees and that would reinforce the concept of the company’s ethics rather than merely the owner’s. Another common real-life challenge is the owner’s difficulty in keeping personal and professional apart, or as described by Donald Kuratko (2017), the lack of “distinctions between activities at work and activities at home” (p. 44). For example, if the owner gives preferential treatment to a friend or relative who works at the company, by allowing him to arrive later or leave earlier simply because of the personal relationship they have, this would be seen as unfair an unethical by the other employees. This problem can be overcome by providing all employees with an employee handbook that clearly states attendance expectations, as well as all the policies and procedures that guide employee actions. It is also essential that the business owner be very discipline and demonstrate a high level of professionalism in all of his actions, by setting boundaries to not only separate his personal and professional life but also keep both of them balanced. Short-term thinking is another frequent challenge in a small business. For example, the owner of a landscaping company knows that applying certain fertilizers during the rainy season is forbidden, but he is afraid of losing a client if he does not make her happy. Therefore, he applies a fertilizer that has high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous, which contribute to eutrophication, a serious type of water pollution (“Fertilizers as water pollutants,” n.d.). His short-term thinking (“I do not want to lose this client”) has led him to act unethically—and in this case, illegally as well. If he does not get caught for his actions, he may continue doing this and soon unethical behavior will become habit. A way to overcome this challenge is for the owner to embrace long-term thinking. Rather than focusing on immediate profits, he should aim at building a sustainable business that adopts the triple bottom line approach that considers not only economic impacts but also societal and environmental ones. As noted above, implementing an ethical framework at a small business level is challenging yet not impossible. As the business grows, ethical codes of conduct and ethical strategies are essential; therefore, the sooner the business owner addresses entrepreneurial ethics, the better. Being personally committed and professional, as well as understanding that today’s actions matter not only now but also in the future, are some of the ways in which an entrepreneur can create a successful venture.

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