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Sticky Situations

Three entrepreneurs share their ethical dilemmas-and why they're better because of them.

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This story appears in the February 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Company ethics are the stuff of headlines. Each of the followingentrepreneurs faced ethical decisions in their start-ups thatshaped who and what their companies would become. What would you doin these situations?

  • Customerconflict:
  • "There was a client [project]we'd worked on at our former employer, and for that client, wedeveloped a unique re-search methodology," says Aaron Keller,33, co-founder with Brian Adducci, 36, of Capsule, a branddevelopment firm in Minneapolis.

After finishing the project, they decided to start their ownbusiness and seek out their own customers. However, those formerclients managed to track them down. "This client had gottenthe proposals from our former employer for the next researchproject, and because it was a research methodology that no one elsehad, it was incredibly valuable. They said, 'Can you pitchthis? You developed the methodology and can easily put ittogether.' Even though [it would have been] by far our biggestclient out of the gate, [we said no]. It just wouldn't beappropriate. That's just not something you want to have hangingover you for the rest of your business."

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