“Do unto others has you would have done to you.” That simple phrase, or one similar, is called the Golden Rule and it applies just as well to business as to your personal life. Just as in life, behaving ethically in business can be difficult. It takes a lot of discipline and courage to live by the Golden Rule when others are taking shortcuts to professional advancement.
While it is probably easier for a company to make money by not always behaving ethically, there is also a decided disadvantage: lack of trust. Trust may not seem like a big deal but ultimately it can have a huge impact. Companies that practice ethical behavior and earn the trust of their customers have a huge long-term advantage of their competitors. A happy customer stays with a company longer and spends more according to an article at Management for the Rest of Us. In addition, it is far less expensive to keep a current customer happy than it is to recruit new customers.
For more information about how the Golden Rule makes sense in business, find a copy of “There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics” by John C. Maxwell. This excellent work is discussed in a book review in the New York Times if you want the short version. The bottom line is that ethics may be hard work, but shortcuts never pay off in the long run.
For more information and resources on how to act responsibly as a direct marketer using modern media, click on this link to the Direct Marketing Association’s Corporate Responsibility Resource Center.