As a business owner I am constantly dealing with an issue that appears to be a conflict of interest: doing what is right versus doing what is legal. There are many behaviors that are legal for a business owner to do in creating profitability for their company, but they are not always right. There are many examples where law is merely a minimum and is insufficient for ethical business conduct. One that I uncover almost daily is when businesses or individuals take advantage of our “consumer ignorance”. By ignorance I do not mean that as consumers we are not smart. In fact we probably have the most resources for product research than any other country, but that we can’t know everything about everything.
For example, I know very little about air conditioning, so in that field I am “ignorant.” I have such a shortfall of information on this topic that I can’t ask good questions. This puts me in a vulnerable position where I must rely on the technician to be honest and skilled enough to ask me the right questions to understand what I need. If this person only “follows the law” and ignores “what is right”, they might manipulate information so I end up paying for products or services I don’t need. This may increase the profitability of his business, but it’s only a short-term boost. The moment I find that she/he has been dishonest with me, I look elsewhere for service and start my search all over again. I will also complain to my friends, who could have been potential clients and added to the long-term success of that business.
For business owners who “take to heart” the practice of doing what is right, we may make short-term sacrifices for long-term benefits sometimes even taking a loss to insure the client gets what they need. At some level this may appear to be bad for business, but overall it is much better for longevity. If the client is truly the central focus, the business will do everything thing it can to assure the customer receives what is best for their needs and desires. By doing “what is right” the associates of that business will never add additional services or products just to “pad the bill”. In fact, it would be appropriate for the business to “talk someone out of ” a product that will not serve the client well.
This philosophy of “doing what is right” takes into account a longer view. It is the only way I know of, to create lasting trust and thus a long-term relationship between the business and the client. Doing what is right is a higher order of conducting business that often transcends the minimalism of the law. It is how we play true to our core concepts and beliefs, taking care of clients as if they really mattered.