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The owner of a large building services company once told me, “Before I started working with you I thought the only way to succeed was to lie, cheat, cut corners and do anything at all to give my customers the very least possible, for the most money I could get them to pay. Most of the company owners or advisors I asked told me this was the only way to succeed in business”.

He went on to say, “After your help, I can see this is not true at all. That is the most valuable thing I have ever learned. I feel very much better about myself, my company and my staff.” Further, his company grew very rapidly after this change, increasing its sales by 10X, in less than 2 years.

Recently another client told me he had spoken with many consultants before choosing our company. He said he chose us as I appeared to be ethical and interested in helping him. Other consultants seemed more interested in helping themselves at his expense.

Business owners and managers are faced with difficult decisions on a daily basis. It is seldom easy to choose the best course of action. There can be huge temptation, and much encouragement from others, to do something shady.

In my long-ago university days, I studied the philosophy of morals and ethics. I found this study both interesting and frustrating. Much has been written, by very clever people, on the subjects of right versus wrong, good versus evil, morals, ethics, rules, law and so on. Whole libraries are filled with this material and more is written every day, much of it devoted to the ethics of business. Yet careful study of it leaves one confused. Those writing about it have conflicting views. The definitions of words such as morals, ethics and duty are unclear, and each is used to define the other. All this writing provides no simple guide or rule to help a person to choose the right thing to do. This creates difficulties in one’s personal life and especially for the business owner, executive, manager or employee.

The missing ingredient is purpose. You must know why you are doing what you are doing. And the reason why must be something that helps broadly.

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling 5 balls … work, family, health, friends, and spirit.

Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other 4 balls are made of glass.

If you drop one of these, it will never be the same.”

Brian Dyson, former CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises

By using your basic purpose in life or the basic purpose of the business as a guide, you can make the right personal or business decisions. If the purpose is broadly helpful then the action that best forwards the purpose can be considered the most ethical. 

Of course, this means that you must know your own basic purpose and the purpose of your company must align with that. Sadly, very few people know their own, true basic purpose and most companies lack a clearly stated basic purpose. Often there are “vision statements” or “missions” but these fall short of a true purpose. A purpose is a very different thing.

The focus of my company is to help business owners and others discover their basic purpose and following from that, to clarify the basic purpose of their organisation or business. Through this one action we have helped create thousands of ethical businesses, ethical business owners, and ethical executives. These businesses grow rapidly, benefit the community at large, and are happy places in which to work.

Peter Simpson