If, as a kid, you didn't have to repeat the mantra of good children, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," you might want to start uttering it now if you find yourself in an ethical quagmire. Some entrepreneurs discover the hard way--when they have to hire employees--that what they slipped by the boss isn't acceptable when they're actually bosses themselves. Another argument for keeping your rules golden: You know who your friends are, but do you know who your boss's friends are?
Terrence Young, owner of New Image Enterprises Inc., a business consulting firm in Portland, sometimes makes client phone calls during his day job in an advertising agency, but he stays aware of how close he comes to crossing his own personal ethics line. "It's really hard to work on your own business after 5 or 6 p.m., when clients are trying to figure out why you didn't call during the day," says the 28-year-old. "When I make calls, I'm not doing it to discredit my boss, and I don't think it's a conflict of interest, because I'm not doing advertising."
Blessed by working only three blocks from home, Young hightails it home on his lunch hour to send e-mails and make as many business calls as he can, carefully avoiding making calls from the office whenever possible.
"I make sure it doesn't interfere with my job, because if you interfere with your full-time employment, you're going to shoot yourself in the foot twice," Young contends. "First, you're going to screw up the job you have. Second, you never know who knows someone else. If clients find out [from your boss] you're not as ethical as you could be, then you're shooting yourself again."