Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Your company has a culture. Did you choose it?

Yosemite National ParkIn my last blog I mentioned that if you’re an Ethical Business Builder, but none of your employees are aware of that, who cares? It’s important that you make your whole team aware of the importance of ethics in business.

Obviously your actions are the most important part of being an ethical leader. If you have an “open-door policy” but you’re never around – or you claim that its important that you treat all people with respect, but your team members can hear you flipping out on your vendors on a regular basis as a means of “getting the best deal”, then it doesn’t matter what you write in your ethical policies. The only things important to your team members are the things that you do – not what you say. I’ve read in numerous articles and books that most businesses take on the traits of their founders. Microsoft is like Bill, Apple like Steve, Facebook like Mark, and Google is like its 2 founders…

ALL businesses have a culture. Some are high-energy and highly-competitive like Nordstrom’s and some are more laid-back like your typical start-work-at-noon-and-sit-on-your-bean-bag silicon valley software company. In both of those instances the companies “culture” was deliberately structured to be a certain way. The founders of those companies apparently determined (or it just happened by accident) that the most productive way to deal with their employees was to develop a culture to cater to the type of employee they wanted. This is important because not every person can excel in every environment and company culture. It’s well-known that Nordstrom’s employees either love it there or hate it. The ones who hate it rarely last more than 6 months. That’s the way management likes it. If you’re not going to thrive in the culture they’ve created, then they don’t want you. Does the culture that you’ve developed in your company attract the employees who will excel in your business?

The examples above, however, don’t talk at all about the ethical underpinnings of those cultures. Just like other aspects of culture, if you don’t express your culture, including the ethics that you expect, in writing and then demonstrate through your own actions that you believe in them 100%, then the culture will create itself. Generally that “self-created” culture will come partially from the founder and partially from whatever the other employees think is appropriate. My first encounter with a defined set of “Culture Statements” came from Brad Sugars in his book Instant Team Building and from his entrepreneur masters class. Actually, I can’t think of one other business book or article that has emphasized the importance of defined culture statements.

Culture statements are a series of statements that simply tell your employees and company stakeholders what values and culture your company employs. It’ll probably make more sense if you just read the 12 Points of Culture that I developed for a business I co-founded, cribME!.

12 Points of Culture

  • We treat our customers, colleagues, partners, vendors, and shareholders with respect. In unsettling situations we do our best to empathize with the other side and view the situation from their perspective.

  • We maintain integrity in all interactions. The end never justifies the means. Deliberate lying is never an option. If ever we make a mistake and accidentally make an inaccurate statement we will correct that statement as soon as reasonable.

  • We work diligently to make effective and open communication a high priority by avoiding gossip, harmful sarcasm, and verbal attacks. If we have a question or concern about someone, we strive to ask them directly instead of listening solely to those around them.

  • We are never satisfied with “good enough” and continually strive to improve ourselves, facilities, products, and services to best serve the company stakeholders.

  • The team leaders do their best to provide a healthy and productive environment for their team members to excel at their jobs every day.

  • We are positive toward each other, focusing on exceptional work and constructively critiquing when warranted. We are open to others positive suggestions for improvement.

  • We understand that everyperson we encounter has something to teach us and so will learn from everyone around us.

  • We appreciate that profit is the life-blood of every business and a profitable business benefits everyone in the organization as well as in the communities we serve. We work together to minimize unnecessary expenses and waste to ensure a lasting, profitable business.

  • We strive to be on time and meet deadlines. If we say we are going to do something by a certain time, we do it. If for some reason that is impossible, we communicate another solution as soon as we are aware that we will be late.

  • We recognize that the customer is not always right, however, whether he is or not, its our responsibility to make him feel that way.

  • We hold ourselves accountable for our own actions and responsibilities. We admit to making mistakes and continually learn from them. When we learn from mistakes, they are not failures.

  • We take calculated risks to improve our areas of responsibility. We try new and innovative solutions to daily problems. We quickly discard the solutions that do not work and continually improve those that do.

One of the benefits of developing culture statements for one business is how easily they can be amended to apply to almost any business. Statements I wrote for another business included a point of culture emphasizing the importance of safety. There aren’t a whole lot of dangerous situations in the software business so I didn’t feel that was necessary to emphasize for cribME!.

It’s important to make use of and review all of the points of culture, along with your vision and mission, BEFORE you hire someone. The potential hire needs to be aware of what makes your company unique and it gives you an opportunity to measure her reaction to your emphasis on ethics.

This blog is just barely touching the surface of the importance of dictating your culture to shaping your business. One of the primary findings in, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, that contradicted the teachings of almost every MBA program on the planet, is that the businesses that survived and excelled over time were often the ones that were centered around a core business concept, not a great product.

We’ll get more in depth into the Vision and Mission in another blog, however, for now, start reviewing your business’ current culture and compare that with the culture you’d like it to have. In the next few months I’ll be working to define the culture of a few startups, as well as potentially revamp the culture of a business that’s been around for over 10 years. I look forward to recording the lessons learned from both of those processes.

To your success, Bryan

About Bryan Trilli

Entrepreneurial Junky is probably the best way to describe me. I've bought, run and sold 3 businesses in 3 different states and started a 4th. The first 3 were brick-and-mortar service-based businesses and the 4th does internet marketing for service businesses. My team at Optimized Marketing guarantees to double your business' internet contacts in just 90 Days.


  1. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Tina Russell

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