Why Honesty is Important in Business & Examples of Bad Business Ethics

Being honest.

Step 7: Practice the “Golden Rule”

“Not only can a man be honest and grow rich, but it is almost impossible for a man to grow rich unless he is honest.” J. J. Corn

Short cuts and sharp dealings to quick success make great fodder for novels and movies, but are not smart practices on which to build a successful business. The role models of “greed is good” and “have I got a deal for you,” can lead you to failure.

If you insist that all the marbles belong to you, you will wind up playing by yourself. If you cheat your family, your employees or your customers, eventually you will find the price high. Success in business is more dependent on the “Golden Rule” than many realize. Step 7 is simple: If you want to make it and leave the business to your children, watch out for the temptation of greed and dishonesty.


To be dishonest is to deny reality, to be impatient, to look for shortcuts, to seek instant gratification, and eventually to be self- destructive. Our dishonesty can be with ourselves as well as with others. We can deny our limitations and our motives, setting us up for failure. With others, we seek to serve only our interests, with little regard to anyone else’s welfare.

Dishonesty can prevent you from acting with objectivity and foresight. Dishonest thinking clouds your judgment and may lead to bad decisions. If you are not an amoral person, lying or stealing can create feelings of guilt leading to self-destructive behavior. If you want to succeed, why bet against yourself? Dishonest business owners usually fail; after a while, they run out of customers, suppliers, creditors, and even employees.

Cheating on your spouse can cause business failure. Rarely do you see divorce listed as a cause of business bankruptcy, but with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, I am surprised it is not often cited. Just as divorce can destroy a family’s financial security, it can bankrupt a business. If the business is one that both spouses struggled and sacrificed to develop, there probably will be a conflict over the assets or even ownership and control of the business.

Even if one spouse wishes to buy out the other, how do you determine a fair price? Moreover, it may be difficult to get an agreement if there is any bitterness and distrust. Then there is the problem of getting the money to do so. Do you borrow, or attempt to sell off a piece of the business? If you borrow, can the business handle the debt?

During the divorce proceedings, the business will suffer in many ways. There will an absence of direction and leadership, as couples are preoccupied with their problems. There will be uncertainty over the future of the business. Creditors and employees may become nervous. Customers may speculate. The morale and motivation of everyone associated with the business will be affected. Unfortunately, the more difficult the divorce and the longer the proceedings are dragged out-the more likely the business will fold.

If you attempt to fudge your books, gouge a customer a little, or cheat a vendor, you are sending a strong message to your employees or associates that you accept such behavior. It is an invitation to steal from you. If your employees know that you demand honesty, they will respect you for it. By doing so, you will find dishonest workers will not hang around. An honest environment will make them uncomfortable.

Greed and Envy

What happens to greedy people? Their insatiable craving for more eventually distorts their sense of reality, fair play, and the reason they are in business. Greedy people do not function well in a team environment. Cooperation is not a comfortable place to the greedy as it involves trust and giving. If greed rules an entrepreneur, lasting relationships with suppliers and employees will be difficult to maintain. A fair business deal is when all parties benefit, not just the most demanding.

A new business needs help to survive; without it, the chances of success are even less then the already tough odds. You can’t expect customers, suppliers, and employees to be there for you, if you are concerned only about your personal gain. Greed will not create a favorable environment to develop your venture. I doubt if you are prone to help those concerned only with their own welfare. Greed has been responsible for many a business collapse.

Envy can be just as debilitating as greed. Envy can foul up your judgment. Regardless of how well you are doing, you will always be dissatisfied, as there is always a bigger competitor or a more successful acquaintance. Wanting too much too soon leads to over- expansion and bigger bills. Envy, like impatience, is an emotion, and it does not belong in business.

So practice the “Golden Rule” in all your business dealings as well as your personal affairs and you will find many will help you to build your business, paying you handsome dividends, Why stack the odds against yourself?

Next week, Step 8. I will tell you about the trap of “bigger is better,” as premature expansion is a major cause of failure.

Article © Copyright 2001 Dr. Paul E. Adams. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.

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