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What is Business Ethics?

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In this day and age I am constantly confronted with decisions. I am also constantly barraged with information of others whose business ethics are simply wrong. They know it when they do it but because they can at the expense of their employees or clients. Take for example WalMart. In this CNN Money article there appears to be a trend where they are dumping brands for their own private labels. This is called the power of market share, WalMart owns the retail space. At the same time, the product company has the opportunity to come back should they spend heavily on advertising to get the users into WalMart’s stores.

Technically there is nothing “wrong” with this business practice, however is WalMart doing the right thing? Are they giving their clients the best products at the lowest prices? Maybe maybe not. What if let’s say that Kimberly Clark is in the toilet paper business. Let’s say they get squeezed out by WalMart because they choose NOT to pay for the additional advertising to be on WalMart’s favored status list. Let’s say Kimberly Clark has a $5 Trillion imaginary contract with the largest pulp manufacturers Big Pulp Mfg. Co. What if WalMart also had a $500 Billion contract with Big Pulp Mfg. Co. Kimbery Clark would rank over WalMart.

Let’s say there is a new beetle that destroys most of the trees in Big Pulp Mfg. Co. and demand goes through the roof. Big Pulp Mfg. Co. decides to reward Kimberly Clark with paper allocation and not WalMart. Now WalMart customers run out of ass wipe. Oh my, Houston we now have a problem of epic proportions. WalMart begs Kimberly Clark to sell them their toilet paper. However, the relationship is destroyed and there is no longer any trust, so Kimberly Clark decides to return the favor by selling to WalMart as such a high price it prices WalMart out of the market. This is what is known as a pissing match and no-one wins especially the consumer.

We are seeing similar business model fluctuations with Google taking over the Yellow Pages, Book Publishing, Newspaper Advertising etc. While market supply and demand don’t involve business ethics necessarily many businesses have become dependent on Google either for SEO or PPC or traffic in general, they literally have the power to make a break companies by deindexing them. And have done so for various reasons. So they say, “do no evil.”

So on a smaller scale for small businesses we are faced with similar situations almost on a daily basis just not as visible. When it it OK to bend the rules a little and get the competitive advantage and when is it not? I guess we have to ask ourselves that and search deep down for the right answer, or ask our colleges and mentors for guidance. If you are “too ethical” I have found to be on the losing side so there is a fine balance. In this era of “gotcha” bad news travels fast and it only takes one bad incident to destroy a life time of creditability, ask Tiger Woods.

What is Business Ethics?

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