When you start a business, you have to be a grown up. You have to take charge of every decision, and be responsible for every outcome. There is no parent figure to tell you what to do - or to blame you when things go wrong.
Starting and leading a business is a great challenge, and many people take it up - there are 1.4 million small employers in the UK, and 3.4 million sole traders. Small and medium-sized businesses account for 99.5% of UK firms, and more than 60% of all UK employment.
Having started a small business and helped grow it to international status, I know just how demanding that job can be. Business leaders, by necessity, have to focus on staying commercial and competitive in their marketplace - it is essential for survival.
Making a sustainable profit is a basic rule of business, but it is not the only thing worth concentrating on. Here I explain why good values make for good business.
Values impact your business decisions
Within the law, business owners and managers have the power to decide on:
- who to hire and who to fire;
- conditions of employment;
- pay levels, bonuses and pensions;
- who their suppliers are;
- where they source goods and services from;
- office furniture and equipment;
- disposal or recycling arrangements for packaging and products;
- travel arrangements and which hotels to stay in.
Behind so many of these business decisions are ethical, economic, social and environmental considerations.
Just staying within the law is not the sum total of good citizenship. When you take charge of a business, you have the power to make changes in society, to affect people’s lives and impact the natural environment. With that power comes a responsibility to use it well.
Whether a business owner is explicit about it or not, they will be calling on their values when making business decisions. As a result, it is best to be clear about what those values are and make them an integral part of your decision-making.
Shared values can be a great business asset
With small firms, the values of the business are often the values of the leadership. Founders, owners and managers will say that they know "in their gut" the right thing to do.
Employees with ethical questions usually defer to owners and managers to resolve them, which means that difficult decisions are not a shared responsibility - but they should be.
What binds a business together is not just its commercial mission, but a sense that the people working in it share some basic values. That work is not just a functional way of making a living, but is contributing to the greater good of humanity. That the hours spent at work have a value that transcends its purely commercial purpose.
In addition, customers and consumers love to know what a business stands for beyond providing excellence in goods and services. Being clear about the values of a business helps your customers understand who they are dealing with at a human level - and that counts for a lot.
We all want our lives to have some greater meaning, and values are how that meaning is expressed.
Sponsored post. Copyright © 2019 David Logan, author of Corporate Citizenship