Sometimes, when I explain to people what I do for a living, I get some strange looks. Telling people that I advise and support small businesses, triggers an emotional response in some people akin to if I’d said that I eat small babies with a side order of Brussel sprouts. “So, you’re like Margaret Thatcher then” was one comment I got recently in the pub.
It’s the word “business”. Somehow this word has got itself a very negative set of brand values – people believe that business is bad.
And while I feel all people have a right to an opinion, it does bother me when I talk to business people who feel that running a real business is automatically a bad thing. When I uncover secret feelings in clients that making real money would be unethical, I worry a lot.
Of course there are lots of business practices that are definitely unethical. Paying people poor wages, sacking people without thought, disregarding health and safety, providing a poor service, not paying your bills on time…all of these are definitely unethical practices in my book. But running a business, in itself, is not a bad thing to do, in fact, it in can be a very personally and financially rewarding experience. This is creativity at it’s best.
With increasing media coverage of the not-so-ethical activities of some of the larger companies, people associate business with wrongdoing. But, as most people go into small business so that they can be in control of how they do things, then it’s up to you to make sure that your business is formed on a solid ethical foundation. What your business can offer is that more personal and caring approach that the big boys of business are not always able to offer.
How you can keep your business ethical and profitable
1. Thinking about money. Many of us find it difficult to swallow the mega-profits of companies like HSBC (£1000 per minute seems a little on the high side) especially when you get your bank statement. So you need to be clear what level of income you want to earn. Work out what you think is a reasonable level of income and work towards that.
2. Trust – Do you do what you say you’ll do? Make sure that people are right to trust you. If you let people down, you’ll become known for this and people will not want to do business with you. Don’t ever be tempted to get one over on people for the sake of making that sale, or getting a higher level of profit.
3. Marketing Methods. There are lots of very effective marketing methods which encourage people to buy from you. There is no need to trick people into buying from you – you can tell the truth and this will be much more effective at marketing your business than making things up. In particular, stay away from spam email campaigns, long lock in periods, and claims about your business or product that simply aren’t true. Stick to what you can do and trust that will be enough.
4. How you treat other people. Make sure that you treat people in the way that you would expect to be treated. This means making sure that you pay your invoices on time, not gossiping about others, and delivering what you say you will, when you say you’ll do it.
5. Impact on the environment. Have a look at what impact you and your business have on the world. Are you sure that you’re doing everything you can to protect the environment? Major things that you can do to minimise your impact immediately include changing to a greener electricity tariff, getting the bus rather than driving, and switching your computer off when you’re finished for the day. Why not change your electricity supplier right now at greenelectricity.org. Remember to reuse and recycle everything you can.
How The Joy of Business Can Help
If you’d like to talk over how your business can get to be more ethical and more profitable, get in touch for a free, no obligation chat with Julia Chanteray.