Goodwill Hunting

The Rewards Of Virtue

If bulking up your company's moral fiber seems like a lot of work, consider the alternative. Imagine your company dogged by disgruntled clients, renegade employees, hapless decision-making and a poor reputation.

Not exactly your vision of success? In fact, it's hard to envision any company being successful under these conditions. And while it's believed that virtue offers its own spiritual rewards, the rewards of running an ethical business usually involve financial gain as well--if for no other reason than the fact that unscrupulous behavior generally leads to havoc.

This is why business consultant and business owner David Thrope, founder of Boston Knish Inc. in Acton, Massachusetts, believes that codifying your ethics should be part of the strategic planning of your company early on. Clarifying ethical standards--for yourself as well as others--is a critical step toward entrepreneurial maturity. "A code of ethics gives the people in a company a structure within which to make decisions," explains Thrope.

In any business, developing and preserving ethics is an ongoing process--and an imperfect one. And while it's not necessary to cover every base and perform flawlessly in every situation, it is important to try.

"I think about how I'm going to feel when I'm my mother's age--and my grandfather's age," says Wilson. "What will I think of the decisions I've made? How will I feel about the things I've done? If I can't feel [proud], what good is it to have made a lot of money? It's in everyone's long-term interests to appreciate what they're doing and to feel good about what they're accomplishing here. Otherwise, what's the point?"

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This article was originally published in the July 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Goodwill Hunting.

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