My Thoughts by Rick Stephens

Small Business Ethics

Posted in Ethics,Leadership by Rick on the March 4th, 2007

Executive in CourtEthics in business has become big news over the past several years. We read about the escapades of the executives at Enron, WorldCom and other major companies and shake our heads in astonishment thinking, “How could that happen.” We marvel at the unethical behavior of these leaders while at the same time never considering our own behavior.

The truth is that business leaders, regardless of the size of the company, are faced with ethical pressures everyday. The scale or impact of the ethical decision may not measure up to the likes of an Enron, but nevertheless, they do exist. How a business leader handles minor ethical issues is a precursor to how larger decision will be made as the business grows.

Many of the ethical issues we may face are not clearly black or white. In fact, two people faced with the same issue could quite possible make contrary decisions, while believing they each have made the best ethical decision. Why? Because ethical decisions are based upon one’s moral character. When it comes to moral behavior, we each march to the sound of different drummers and as such will make different decisions on similar issues.

As a business owner you must set the bar on ethical behavior. Make integrity a core value, be honest with your customers and employees, always follow the rules, never compromise your principles, and remember that the right thing is not always the opposite of the wrong thing. Do these things and your customers will respect you and your employees will remain loyal, essential ingredients to a successful business.

To Your Success,

Rick's Signature

Capitalism is Not a Dirty Word

Posted in Ethics by Rick on the February 2nd, 2007

Gass PumpExxon recently reported that their annual profit for 2006 was in excess of $39 billion dollars. Notice I did not say earnings, I said PROFIT. When this was being announced on the evening news, the reporters interviewed several people who were pumping gas into their Luxury SUVs at their local Exxon station. They were all singing the same song, “It is immoral for Exxon to make that much money while we are spending over $2.00 a gallon for gasoline.” Some were even suggesting that the government take action to keep Exxon from making that much money.

Does it make you angry to hear that kind of news? Not me. I believe in capitalism. It is the American way. It is why this country has propelled itself to become the world leader in commerce. It is why we have the highest standard of living in the world. It is why Bill Gates can go from being broke to the richest man in the world. It is the “American Dream.” To expect our government to put restrictions on corporate profits is an insult to our way of life. Besides, the report on Exxon did not explain the whole story. In order for Exxon to earn $39 Billion in profits, it had to spend $338 billion, making its profit margin a slim 10.46%, hardly anything to write home about.

Why aren’t we complaining about Citigroup who earned 24.03% margin by gouging us with credit card interest? Or how about Pfizer and Merck, pharmaceutical companies who earned 22.82% and 19.59% margins respectively, while many of the people in this country can’t afford medication. No, instead we cry over Exxon’s earnings, not realizing that each year we spill more gasoline at the pumps than the Valdez did off the Alaskan coast.

Exxon is no different than any other business. They sell their products at a price based upon what the market will bear in order to make money, support economic growth, and satisfy their stakeholders. If you are unhappy with the profits of Exxon, buy your gas someplace else, stop driving around in inefficient, gas guzzling automobiles, support other forms of energy as a way to reduce our dependency on oil, car pool, use mass transit, but stop whining when you hear reports that prove capitalism works.

By the way, Microsoft earned 25.86% margin last year and soon we will all be forced into buying their new operating system, Vista. Are you enjoying that big screen TV you have in your living room? Texas Instruments earned 18.51% margin last year. Face it, Capitalism is not a dirty word.

To Your Success,

Rick's Signature

Rules Are Not Made to be Broken

Posted in Ethics by Rick on the September 18th, 2006

Are you surprised when you read and hear about all of the corruption within business these days? I’m not. The way people act in business situations is nothing more than a reflection of how they act in their normal lives. Why would we expect anything different?

I am a follower of rules. I believe that rules are there to give everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits that our great nation provides. I get angry when people don’t follow the rules.

I don’t like seeing people park in handicap zones, with or without a handicap tag, when they don’t need to. I get irritated when shoppers take 15 items and check out in a 10 item or less line. I don’t like to listen while people talk about how they managed to by-pass the cable company and get their cable TV for free. You get the idea. When people don’t follow the rules, those of us who do pay the price. I guess those folks believe that the rules are made for everyone else and not for them. Their selfishness comes before rules.

I have a sign on my wall that reminds me of this, it says, “He who follows the rules gets screwed.” It is not there to suggest that I not follow rules, rather to remind me not to get too angry when people don’t. Every now and then I get comforted when I see someone who did not follow the rules get their just reward.

Last week a news story reported that a school teacher was arrested in her classroom in front of her elementary kids. The story, and of course, the lady arrested, thought it was horrible that the police came into the school room in front of these young children and embarrassed her over a parking ticket that she did not pay. It turns out she had more than one outstanding parking ticket and they were several years old.

To bad lady, you broke the rules and thought you could get away with it. The fact that you were embarrass in front of your kids is your own fault. Do you think those of us who follow the rules should be considerate of your feelings when you obviously don’t care about ours? And the kids, let them see what happens when people don’t follow rules. Let us reinforce good actions by clearly punishing poor actions.

My hope is that by doing so, these kids will grow up following rules. Remember, the way people act in their normal lives will carry over to their business lives. Do you want businesses to become less corrupt? Cheer the small victories we get when those who refuse to follow rules get caught. I want to change my sign to read, “He who follows the rules wins.”

To Your Success -

Rick's Signature