Running an honest, ethical business may seem like common sense. However, in today’s competitive business world, the temptation to not do so can be big.

As a small business owner it is not OK to do something “just once.” One-time ethics breaches often become habits. Doing this will cause irreparable damage to the reputation of your business.

Two-thirds of small business owners say they are more concerned about ethical business practices today than in the past, according to a survey by the management consulting firm George. S. May International.

Central Maine SCORE mentor Ralph Tuttle said, “It may be difficult to measure the benefit of ethical actions to your bottom line, but a lack of ethics will definitely have a negative impact on a small business, just as it affects the more publicized large businesses.”

He continued: “Although formal ethics training is rare at small companies, business owners are always looking for new or better ways to define their values for employees and customers. Some are putting ethics policies on paper while others are simply raising the issue more often in the workplace.”

The Josephson Institute of Ethics,, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that helps advance ethical decision-making. The institute’s website has a helpful step-by-step guide to making ethical decisions and it’s free. The institute also conducts Ethics in the Workplace training seminars and has a catalog of publications, videos, CDs, tapes, banners and other ethics-awareness products for sale.

The Ethics Resource Center is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that offers informational products and services, including help in creating a code of conduct. ERC also conducts an annual National Business Ethics Survey. You can find more details at

Consider also the availability of popular books that will help integrate your business practices with your personal beliefs. Among them are “The Power of Ethical Management” by Ken Blanchard and “Street-Smart Ethics: Succeeding in Business without Selling Your Soul” by Clinton McLemore.

To learn more about small-business ethics and other management issues, contact SCORE, a nonprofit organization of more than 12,000 volunteer business mentors who provide confidential counseling and training. In the Lewiston-Auburn area, contact Central Maine SCORE at 782-3708 or at [email protected] In Oxford Hills, call 743-0499; in Rumford-Mexico, call 364-3123. Or contact SCORE at

This column is provided by the Central Maine SCORE chapter.

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