Values and Ethics in Business: Why They Matter

Values and Ethics in Business: Why They Matter

In the social business marketplace, brands that hope to build loyal and growing communities do so most effectively when they demonstrate their core values and allow a community to build and engage around it. — Simon Mainwaring

We know that the playing field is not level. Recent news regarding alleged sexual harassment at leading tech firms, continued wage inequality for women and people of color, the ongoing use of conflict minerals in our devices, and mass incarceration all illuminate the need for those of us who have power and resources to make a difference.

As a certified B Corp, Colibri Digital Marketing incorporates our values and ethics into everything we do. As a San Francisco-based business, we are fortunate to have access to many like-minded business owners and we look to each other to find ways to refine and increase our impact.

We strive to be leaders in the digital marketing space, constantly finding ways to make what is already a relatively clean industry ever more environmentally and socially sustainable.

What does environmental and social sustainability mean to us? It means that our work does not harm, and may even help, the environment. It means that we find ways to be not only tolerant of people who may or may not share our values, but actively inclusive as well.

The question for us, as a digital marketing agency, is how to become social and environmental justice leaders even as we continue to develop our team and expertise, pay our expenses, and provide for our children. As small business owners, every dollar is stretched and time is at a premium. And yet, we recognize that justice and equality are priceless.

Colibri Digital Marketing Brand Values

Our brand values are:

  • Relationships. For us, relationships are about equality and the relative amounts of power and privilege enjoyed by different people in different contexts.
  • Courtesy. We believe that courtesy extended to everyone we meet goes a long way towards correcting imbalances.
  • Quality. As business owners, delivering useful and thoughtfully conceived products and services is foundational.
  • Integrity. Standing by our words and our actions fosters trust, which builds healthy relationships. If you are right with yourself, you live free.
  • Sustainability. Justice is sustainable and fosters peace. When we think of sustainability, we think of economic equality and environmental stewardship.
  • Results. We work hard and we (along with our clients) want something to show for it.
  • Fun. Yeah, life is hard and usually not fair. Without fun, it’s difficult to keep your sense of wonder and purpose.

It’s a good feeling knowing that not only do you care about being the best you can be, but that other business owners have reflected on these issues just as you have.

We reached out to our community to find out what other Bay Area business owners think is important because we believe sharing values starts conversations that inspire and uplift everyone involved.

Here’s what they said:

Dina Eisenberg, Workday Lifeguard

Certainly, honesty and integrity are values that should be high on any entrepreneur’s list. I’m drawn to grit, patience, and respect as the values I most like to see in myself and other entrepreneurs.

I wish more small business owners would recognize the grit they bring to their work. There are so many challenges and disappointments yet the hard-working entrepreneurs I know and love continue to strive day after day to see their vision realized and bring forth great solutions.

Coupled with grit is patience, the ability to accept delay or trouble without being unduly bothered. Who but a heart-based entrepreneur would continue to see the bright side and wait hopefully for the day ‘their ship comes in’? That spirit has to be celebrated.

Last but not least is respect. Business owners should give themselves the respect they reserve for clients. Too often I see a business owner sacrificing their needs for the best interest of their clients. Noble but not respectful of your own efforts. A truly successful business is the one that works equally well for the owner as the clients.

Find Dina at outsourceeasier.com

Lilian Chou, CEO, UX-Flo

Here are my business and personal values:

1. Be deeply empathetic to your clients needs.

2. “No” is one of the best learning opportunities provided to you — don’t miss them.

3. Change is vital to survival.

Reach out to Lilian at UX-flo.

Rhonda V. Magee, Professor of Law, UCSF

My top three values are integrity, passion, and justice.

Integrity is important because without it — the commitment to living in alignment with my values — all the other values really don’t mean anything. Passion is what makes the world turn. And justice is what passion — love, and compassion in action — look like in public. It belongs everywhere.

Rhonda is a writer, teacher, and public speaker on race, law, mindfulness, and social justice. Check out her work here.

John Henning, CMO, Granite Solutions Groupe

GSG VALUES

Relationships form the bedrock from which all our decisions, actions and priorities are derived. Our relationships with clients, consultants, employees, and people in the communities in which we work and live are what motivate us to get out of bed each day to do our very best. We never take anyone for granted and we strive to know the people we work with on a personal and professional level so that we can deliver relevant, long term solutions that meet the needs of all stakeholders in the process of providing high caliber talent.

We are more interested in the relationships than the transactions as we know that relationships are what create long-term value, and we have faith that solid business transactions naturally come as a result of meaningful relationships.

Integrity is the value that guides and informs how we approach our work on a daily basis. There is a quote: “Integrity is doing the right thing and not telling anyone about it”. This is a good reference point for understanding the importance of this value for all GSG employees, particularly our sales force. We work in an industry that is rife with unscrupulous individuals that will do anything to make a deal. GSG is different in that we would rather walk away from revenue than do anything other than the right thing in each and every situation. We differentiate ourselves from the competition by telling the truth, providing transparency, and having the courage to be honest even when it feels uncomfortable or difficult. Another well-known quote explains it perfectly: “The truth will set you free”.

Quality is “Job One” as the Ford Motor Company says, and that’s the way we think about what we do at GSG every day. By listening to our clients to understand their needs and listening to our recruiting team to understand how a candidate meets those needs as a result of their screening and interviewing activities, we can deliver quality solutions that value everyone’s time and energy. Quality is not the same thing as perfection, and while we always strive for quality, we are careful not to let perfection get in the way of progress.

Consistency is the key to maintaining long term relationships, a reputation for quality and dependability for all of our stakeholders. Our clients, consultants, employees, and the people we serve in the community know what to expect from GSG. This quality of consistency is measured and reinforced through process, automation, and metrics in order to provide constant feedback so that we not only know where we’re going but we know that we’re on track to getting there. Another famous management quote, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” serves as a good reminder when thinking about what consistency means to GSG.

Efficiency throughout all aspects of the operation is what enables GSG to respond quickly to customer requirements. GSG’s commitment to technology and automation in all areas leverages employees’ time, facilitates communication and promotes information sharing and continuous improvement. GSG’s leadership team values individuals that embrace this commitment, rejecting paper-based filing systems and research methods which are not easily transmitted to other team members. The commitment to efficiency can best be summed up by the quote, “Never confuse effort with results”, and represents a bias to action in all firm activities.

Diversity is important because of GSG’s ownership structure as an LGBT owned business enterprise, but this motivation is secondary to management’s recognition that a diverse workforce creates the best environment for success through innovative, creative, and bold decision-making that represents the best of the best in the community, regardless of an individual’s unique background and personal characteristics.

Community to GSG is everything. Our commitment to giving back to the communities that fuel our client’s business is the right thing to do not only from a moral perspective, as it also reflects a financial imperative that a rising tide lifts all boats. We encourage our employees, clients, and business partners to give back as much as possible to generate wealth and opportunity in the communities we operate in and beyond.

Learn more about Granite Solutions Groupe.

Laurent Vergnaud, Co-Founder, Themecloud.io

Honesty. Honesty is not a fundamental value of business, on the contrary some might say. But to me, being honest is the only option, not only because I feel like being dishonest would be cheating, but also that I would pay the price in the end. Don’t get me wrong, though, you can definitely make a shit load of money being dishonest in business. That’s just not the way I want to do it.

Kindness. This can sound strange also but well, life is way too tough for us to be rude! Too many people are stressed out. Come on, kindness generally doesn’t cost much and is truly appreciated. Don’t be too kind, though! If you’re too naive you’ll be eaten by the sharks in no time. But kindness mixed with professionalism is the perfect recipe for a constructive business relationship.

Dedication. I just feel bad if I do something half-way. I want to be proud of my services and I only blame myself if something goes wrong. Caring about that details for your clients won’t cost you much but means a lot for your client. On the other end, don’t promise anything that you are not able to do, it will backfire big time!

Learn more about themecloud.io and their managed WordPress hosting services.

Jonathan Plotzker, Owner, Heliotrope

My most important values are:

1. Integrity: if a person (or company) believes in something, they should follow through with it; if they make a promise, they should keep it.

2. Self-awareness: each of us must follow the social compact, and act accordingly; knowing that your actions have an effect on those around you. this is especially true of businesses, whose actions greatly affect their communities.

3. Respect (related to #2): appreciating those around you, and what they bring to the world, both with their knowledge and their accomplishments.

Check out Jonathan’s locally produced, organic skincare products.

David Theis, DMH, Executive Director, Ann Martin Center

Integrated Understanding of the Child. We value an integrated understanding of a child’s development, particularly the reciprocal influence between learning and emotions, as well as the role of family, biology and external stressors like poverty. This comprehensive approach to treatment enhances a child’s resilience, confidence, and productivity.

Best Practices. We value treatment excellence based on best practices and meaningful positive outcomes through assessment, prevention, and early intervention strategies that promote well-being and school success. We value improving these practices through ongoing assessment and evaluation.

Community Collaboration. We value building and maintaining strong collaborative relationships with educators, schools, health and mental health providers, and other related agencies in the community.

Professional Development. We value training educators and mental health professionals, both on our staff and in the community, in order to share knowledge about contemporary research, theory, and techniques relevant to best treatment practices.

Inclusivity. We value giving youth and families access to appropriate care regardless of their ability to pay. We honor differences in race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic level, sexual orientation, and faith. We value competently and respectfully addressing developmental, cultural, and personal differences among children, families, employees and members of our board of directors, and colleagues.

Ethical Standards. We value holding ourselves to high ethical standards with a commitment to bringing an energetic, flexible, responsive, and proactive approach to delivering services to children, adolescents and families.

Fiscal Responsibility. We value business excellence and responsible stewardship through revenue maximization and the wise, cost-effective use of public funding and private contributions. We value applying this fiscal responsibility to employment practices with our own staff and their families.

Find out more Ann Martin Center’s programs for children.

Jasmine Cabanaw, COO, Colibri Digital Marketing

  • Communication
  • Integrity
  • Creativity

I think that these qualities create a forward-thinking environment and allow all people involved in the business — from staff members to customers — to feel valued.

Sam Ho, Founder, UpOut

Here are three core values that guide UpOut:

Continuous Improvement. Agile and experimental mindset to approaching ideas.

Data Driven. Ideas are great, but try to have data to support them and make sure you have metrics for success.

Results Oriented. Keep people focused on the end result (i.e. even in social media, how does this affect our bottom line. When we improve a product, it’s usually about retention but this again translates to users -> revenue). Again going back to having metrics for success.

Other things that help people and businesses work better:

Learning and Personal Development. Always be learning and growing (kind of related to continuous improvement).

Collaboration. Getting value out of working in teams.

Being a Self Starter. In a small startup, you may be asked to do something you don’t know how to do (and neither does anyone else). You have to be a bit autonomous in figuring it out in this situation and not wait for someone to hold your hand.

Lincoln Pain, Certified Financial Planner, specialized in Socially Responsible Investing

Yes!! All business should have values and values are very important in business. Now, what that means gets complicated.

In socially responsible investing (SRI) we tend to think of values as:

  • Treating employees, customers and business relationships ethically and fairly.
  • Providing a service or product in a way that enhances life by not polluting or poisoning the environment or workplace.
  • When relevant and possible, providing a service or product that actually improves the quality of life and the environment.
  • Creating a sense of community with people and place.
  • Protecting and respecting the lives and experiences of women and children.
  • Promoting an improvement in democracy wherever they can.
  • Promote economic and power equality wherever possible.

But, even outside of SRI corporations have often embraced the following corporate values:

  • Making the best high quality product reliably and dependably. Think the Prius. Think the iPhone. Yes, this is a value, but it is not always practiced.
  • Treating employees well so that they will be happy, healthy, loyal, and have longevity in the workplace.
  • Donating to local charities in order to enhance their reputation and participation in the regions they work in.
  • Participating in local government.
  • Making their self-promotion (advertising) promote a sense of purpose and clean living, remembering that children see that promotion.

Why should a corporation have values? Corporations are the backbone of human production and group endeavor. Their practices determine much of the quality of human experience, wealth, power, community and health, for good or for ill.

You can reach Lincoln at 510-549-8780 or lpain@effectiveassets.com.

Payal Bhandari, MD, Medical Director, Advanced Health

My top values are integrity, simplicity, honesty, empathy, consistency, and quality. These are the foundation of how I live my life and how my business is designed to always follow these values.

Learn more about Dr. Bhandari’s integrative medical services via her Advanced Health website.

Choi Chow, Marketing Manager, Corodata

Corodata upholds the following values: customer happiness, teamwork, outshine the competition, continuous improvement, safety, and security.

You can find more details about Corodata’s values here.

Samantha Wendel, Graphic Designer

Integrity. It’s important to know yourself and to stand by your instincts and opinions with honesty. This is an essential part to the creative process and to project management. It’s always best to be honest and sincere. The worst thing that can result from genuine honesty is a difference of opinion. Some of my best work has started with a difference of opinion.

Loyalty. We’re all in this together. Working hard with focus, while developing relationships with other hardworking, focused individuals helps to build the basis of any career. No level of success is worth giving up on or taking advantage of those who’ve helped to create it.

Quality. The ability to take pride in one’s work should never be taken for granted. In any business, you get out of it what you put into it. Hard work and attention to detail are skills one will benefit from throughout their entire career.

Find examples of Samantha’s work at cargocollective.com/swendel

Ruth Linden, Ph.D., Owner, Tree of Life Health Advocates

Tree of Life Health Advocates’ five top values are:

  • Integrity
  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Client empowerment
  • Caring

Values are important in business, as in the rest of life, because they inform our clients, colleagues, and competitors about who we are, what matters to us, and what they can expect from us. In this way, they help to calibrate our own and others’ expectations and differentiate us in the marketplace.

Values and Ethics in Business: Why They Matter

This post is an example of our values in action. We reached out to our community and asked them to share what’s most important to them. As you can see from the thoughtful responses, above, our community cares not only about success, but about being ethical as they achieve it.

We are honored to be part of the values-based San Francisco business community!

If you would like to know more about running a B Corp-style business or schedule time to talk about values, reach out and schedule complimentary digital strategy session.


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Anna Colibri

Anna Colibri

Anna Colibri owns the eponymous Anna Colibri, a mompreneurial marketing solutions company providing teaching, writing & digital strategy for small businesses and solopreneurs. When she's not working she's momming, meditating or iPhonographing the streets of San Francisco.
Anna Colibri

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