Is It All That Important To Have Ethics In Business 100% of the Time?


Frankly, an Editorial

(Every one in business fudges a bit now and then, right?)

When I first started out in business for myself in the mid-1970s, I subconsciously looked for examples of ‘how to do business’ in other people who were also in business for themselves.

Well, the examples I was treated to in the marketplace ran the gamut from ‘screw people as much as you can whilst keeping as much as you can’ types to those who revealed, ‘yes, I was cheated out of my part in that deal, but I’m not going to court over it; I will pray for them’ types.

The troubling thing for me was that the majority of the later types of examples were friends of mine. Now, I’ll confess right here and now that I almost invariably took up an offense on their behalf when I saw blatant fraud committed against them. It was probably the ‘mother hen’ instinct in me.

However, the interesting thing about being in business in serving the public (any marketplace) for over 40 years is that your 20-20 hindsight often allows you to view results of certain marketplace behavior.

And almost invariably, the ‘give as little as you can while keeping as much as you can’ types seem to always drift from the scene—or are forgotten quickly. This is after their being an example of living high on the proverbial hog for a time. Their lives leave no legacy or leave a poor one. Examine regularly what you truly value in your life.

The other thing is that the so-called ‘weak-in-business’ types, the ‘I will pray for them’ souls whom I wanted to protect, just seemed to grow stronger in their chosen fields in passing years.


Who or What Is Your ‘North Star’ Set of Marketplace Principles?


  1. Find those individuals, janitors to CEOs, who best seem to have it together and follow them—only not just on Twitter or Facebook. Truly get to know them.

    My first model I wanted to follow was, in actuality, my accountant. He was referred to me by my wife as we had just been married less than a year at that time. His name was Homer. Guess that’s a good name for a CPA. He was less than 10 years my senior, but he had an empathy for his clients you wouldn’t believe. I would have stayed with him longer than the 26 years I did, but the Lord decided he should start his first day of eternity with bone cancer. My wife and I had an extremely rough fist couple of years and I was scared to get my first bill from a well-known CPA. I remember carefully opening the envelope in private. It was his bill for services, but the bottom figure of Total Due was marked $0. And there was also a $100 check besides. I trust my ‘lifetime value’ to him over the following 26 years meant as much to him as his $100 check to me. But his was always great counsel—if I only would have just followed it more!

  2. Treat every relationship and every contact with the idea that ‘I’ll make them glad they talked to me!’ in order to be some kind of blessing to them.

    When I had to resign a client as I felt they weren’t benefiting from our relationship and I just didn’t want to keep getting their checks, I felt bad. They, on the other hand, were ticked off. But two years later I received a call from that client who was on a beach on vacation asking me to reinstate him. He now realized what I was trying to do for his business and promised that he will now do the homework I assign. But realize that you have advice that only you can give. And every person needs to be glad they talked to you.

  3. If you make a mistake admit it. Own up to it. And never ever be prone to hyping what you can do—unless you can do it the way you describe it!

    Integrity rears its head in each one of these three areas, but especially this one. No one like to be associated with a mistake. But some amazing things have happened to me and a whole lot of others just because they didn’t pretend to be superman or superwoman in front of a client. Of course the old former pitcher, Dizzy Dean’s dictum comes into play here: “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it!” But even if you can do what you promised—with your eyes closed—there is such a thing as deference when out among people. The Gen Y and younger crowd don’t quite have this down—as a group. But humility plays a high dividend in business.

It does sound corny, but it works. Keep pushing on in doing the right thing, every time, and you will be amazed at what you produce—in projects AND in people!


About Steve Lanning

Steve Lanning is a nationally recognized entrepreneur who has been creating his own paycheck since 1975 and loves to help others do likewise. As the founder of both the National Association of Business Coaches (sold in 2002) and the Consultants National Resource Center (for all marketers of professional services), he and his family have lived in three of the four states in our Quad State region. His passion is to see individuals and small businesses, start-ups to mature, discover and promote their strengths in building revenue streams individually, that, collectively, make for a strong region as reported on and celebrated by the Quad State Business Journal. He can be contacted at

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