"I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead--and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead, and they would be honest so much earlier."
--- Mark Twain
Every few years, it takes an Enron or WorldCom scandal to shake up the business community and wake up the media. Businesses begin hiring consultants to give seminars on ethics and the media schedules endless documentaries on businesses that have fallen because of bad behavior versus those who base their work on strong, solid values.
Too often we hear about a business owner or leader that has cheated either on his or her taxes, accounting practice, spouse, or all three. Our industry is not immune from the contagious disease of unscrupulous practices.
"It has been my experience that competency in mathematics, both in numerical manipulations and in understanding its conceptual foundations, enhances a person's ability to handle the more ambiguous and qualitative relationships that dominate our day-to-day financial decision-making."
--- Alan Greenspan
Some of us depend on outside agencies to keep us in line with our accounting and taxes. It is usually better to leave certain business activities to the experts. However, that shouldn't excuse us from knowing how and why these activities are done the way they are. Information is so freely available today that business owners should at least know the basics of tax laws, reading financials, and knowing our debits from our credits.
"There's no business like show business, but there are several businesses like accounting."
--- David Letterman
When you began your business, you had a particular passion to use a certain expertise that you could profit from. This base set of knowledge, skills, and abilities is where your bread is buttered, but it is not all there, as to what it takes to running your business successfully. Expanding your knowledge to other areas of the business only increases your value and capability to spot irregularities as they arise.
Most crooks are crooks because they lack the experience and knowledge to do anything else. They haven't applied themselves like you have and they see the "easy road" of crime and/or unethical behavior as the shortest distance between two points.
"Most of the time common stocks are subject to irrational and excessive price fluctuations in both directions as the consequence of the ingrained tendency of most people to speculate or gamble... to give way to hope, fear and greed."
--- Benjamin Graham
Knowledge creates patience and a sense of comfort and confidence in one's abilities. Acquiring the necessary knowledge to be able to spot fraud or unscrupulous behavior saves your business from embarrassment, loss of productivity and profit, and customers.
"There is a certain degree of satisfaction in having the courage to admit one's errors. It not only clears up the air of guilt and defensiveness, but often helps solve the problem created by the error."
--- Dale Carnegie
If you've been tempted to cut corners or have made mistakes in the past, now is the best time to take ownership of them and come clean --- if not to everyone around you, then at least to yourself. Begin today with a clean slate and set an example for the rest of your team that your work, and that of the business, will be honest, guilt-free, quality, "man, I'm good" work!
"It is a mistake to always contemplate the good and ignore the evil, because by making people neglectful it lets in disaster. There is a dangerous optimism of ignorance and indifference."
--- Helen Keller
If you know of others in your business that are not holding up to a common sense code of ethics, then call them out. Be the one who stands for what is good, right, and fair. Regardless of what the loony, lazy types might say, there is a right and a wrong way of doing business.