Every great best business is anchored by a strong moral compass.
The rise of internet reviews and social media commentary means that customers have the power to tumble even the biggest brands. They used to say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but trust us, these days there is.
Having a conscience is a good business principal to stand by. Your employees are more likely to be happy, as are your customers. So let’s look at why having a conscience is more important than ever in the world of business — particularly for those just starting out.
A sturdy foundation
Whether you’re running a startup, trying to get a new business off the ground, or just an aspiring entrepreneur, the standards you set now will more than likely determine the way your business is run well into the future. It’s all about core values. Taking care to build your business on principles of moral worth is the same as laying a sturdy foundation — conversely, starting out with a willingness to cut corners, cheat and generally not play a fair game might one day result in your business sinking into the swamp.
Metaphors aside, there are a few things you need to think about to get that business conscience active from the outset. It may sound counter-intuitive, but look to be more than a profit-making machine. Profit will always be important, of course, but try to avoid tunnel vision. Think about other things, like helping your employees grow, being conscious of the environment and investing in fair-trade goods.
For those working in the ecommerce realm, there are multiple strands you could consider when looking at being ethical — whether that’s building an honest marketing team, or relying solely on locally-sourced goods. Whatever matters the most to you, this is your chance to make that very thing a big part of your core business model.
You might want to start out broad, but by the time your business is getting ready to fully launch and make a mark upon the world, your business ideals should be specific and concrete. You never know what might happen — one day they might be recognized and admired by more people than you ever expected to know about you.
Respect can be a funny thing, because it’s about so much more than just liking something. There needs to be a deep admiration there as well. For example, people like free things (no surprises there), so if you offer customers discount codes, gift vouchers or other comparable incentives, they’ll probably appreciate it — but has a free gift ever actually made you remember a brand? Probably not, because there’s no admiration there. Just mild gratitude.
For ecommerce businesses in particular, it can sometimes feel like you’re lost in the faceless world of online selling. But if you can maintain your ethical principles, you’ll one day find that your company personality begins to speak for itself, naturally setting you apart from all your identikit competitors. Have you ever wondered why there are so many online businesses for sale today? It’s because they can easily be passed on and remade. Business operations aren’t what matter for value. Brand image matters. Build a strong image, and you’ll carry it with you across any industries you enter.
This is why gaining respect from your customers, employees and other businesses is worth the time and effort. If you want to be more than just another faceless brand, you’re going to have to act like it. The respect you’ll gain in return will yield improvements in so many areas — everything from the size of your customer base to your rate of employee retention.
I know it’s a scary prospect, but the average small (or even medium-sized) business will need investment to keep the ball rolling and the business growing. If your company is somewhat morally bankrupt, you’re going to have a hard time attracting investors. Think about it: would you rather invest your money in someone you trust, or in someone who seems to have blagged their way through to their current position? Additionally, by being socially conscious you will attract a far larger and more varied pool of potential investors.
According to the US SIF Foundation, the number of assets related to sustainable impact investments increased by more than a third between 2014 and 2016. The bottom line is that investing in conscience-minded businesses is not only a safe bet from a business perspective, with ethical and social issues popping up at increasing levels, but also a good move ideologically.
To really make the most of this, you need to pay more than just lip service to ethical business — your ethics need to be embedded into the root of your company (please see point one). Look at companies like Asana, which from the very outset decided to create a healthy business culture of looking after employees and delivering a genuinely-great product.
Change the world
I know, it sounds cheesy, but many a small business has impacted the world in ways we could never have imagined. Never underestimate your business’s potential, or the potential you have to create an impact on the world around you — whether locally, nationally, or on the global stage. Everyone has to start somewhere (that’s why new businesses are called “startups”, after all).
Because ecommerce looks to be the future for many modern businesses, some worry about the erosion of meaningful brand identity in a virtual world, but operating largely (or exclusively) online doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. And if you’ve yet to move into the online retail world, you’ll have the golden opportunity of a fresh start in a booming sector allowing you to shape your image from the ground up.
A positive can-do attitude and ambitious outlook can work hand-in-hand with an ethically-conscious business. Take inspiration from those working now to run a business at the same time as making the world a better place. But remember, leaving a meaningful impact is about more than just replicating the successes of others — you have to be unique and innovative. Fill your workforce with people who are positive, creative and open to tackling problems in unique ways.
Having a conscience in business really is more important than ever in 2018. It lays the groundwork for a long-lasting business model, a trusted brand name and an innovative, dedicated workforce committed to the cause. No matter what kind of business you run, having your moral compass in tip-top condition is a must.
Kayleigh Alexandra writes about the entrepreneurial spirit for Micro Startups, a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest stories and insights, and follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.