A Salute to Ethics

A Salute to Ethics

By Andy Kocemba

I know this isn’t the first article you’ve read about business ethics, and it probably won’t be the last, but I hope it makes you think.

I was recently honored to be a part of the judging panel for the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota’s Torch Awards for Ethics in Business. It was a great program to be involved with, and I’m grateful organizations like the Better Business Bureau recognize the businesses in our communities that make strong ethics a part of their daily practice.

But it got me thinking: Why do we constantly need articles, awards, and programs that extol and recognize strong ethical practices? 

Because it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. 

I believe that the primary reason we go to work or go into business is survival. We work to meet the needs of ourselves and our families, and that’s not wrong. The base driver in work is always personal gain.  

This is where the effort comes in. Suppressing greed and selfish motives while honoring the best interest of others is an exercise in running counter to natural internal drives as well as commonly-accepted business norms.

As a member of the judging panel for the ethics awards, I saw firsthand the great and creatives lengths to which many small businesses like my own go in order to ensure that ethical practices are part of their everyday operations. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Beyond the mission statement: The companies I had the pleasure of evaluating all had this in common: Their mission statement was more than just words in an employee handbook. They had it posted throughout their offices, on their websites, and referenced in regular staff meetings. The words became woven into the fabric of the company.  
  • Beyond the normal scope of business: In most of the examples I read, companies’ real-life examples of ethical decisions often highlighted instances beyond their normal scope of business. Every day service calls become predictable, and often excellent service is delivered, but how does the company respond when it is thrown a curveball? Training staff to make ethical decisions in unpredictable situations is a hallmark of excellent organizations.
  • Beyond the self: The real ability to fully integrate ethical behavior throughout an organization is anchored in getting your staff to see beyond themselves. Much of this has to do with providing a secure environment. When they know ethical behavior does not necessarily come at the expense of themselves, you give them the freedom to put others first. 

Ideas to consider — and use.

Andy Kocemba is president and co-owner of Calhoun Cos., a top business brokerage firm in the Upper Midwest. Calhoun Cos. has been connecting buyers and sellers since 1908, working with small- to medium-sized businesses across all industries. A graduate from Bethel University, Kocemba joined Calhoun Cos. in 2003 as a sales agent before buying the business in 2011. He is a member of the International Business Brokers Association, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and Better Business Bureau.