Business Ethics – Overrated or Underrated?

Ethical behavior, quality character, honesty, moral integrity – how does one in business view these human attributes?  I tend to view them as a given with the people I interact in both the business world and in my personal life as well.  I expect the best from people yet keep my eyes open for behavior that contradicts my expectations.

I am a business broker based in Florida.  In the profession of helping those buy and sell businesses.  In my profession, as with most all professions you have what some consider good business brokers, bad business brokers, and OK business brokers.  Most all industries have the good, the bad, and the average.  Is it ethical practices which help define the good, bad or OK?

Business Ethics Among Your Clients

I recently experienced a business activity that made me take special note of a business clients actions. Basically, we had a verbal understanding and agreement regarding a business relationship we would enter into contractually.  While driving to meet with client to sign the documents that outlined our agreement my client was approached by others.

The client and I had no written agreement between us. The  client could potentially go in another direction which could cost me a fair amount of money. I had left at 5:00 am to drive 6 hours to meet client and about 1/2 hour before I got to our meeting he called me to tell me of this other situation.

After listening to what he had on his mind, I was somewhat pleased when he  then asked me how long before I could get there and we could sign our papers and I could represent him with this prospective buyer of his business.  He told me he felt he needed the assistance of my representation, yet he could of handled the situation so much differently.  Before this exchange I viewed this potential client as a good, honest, straight forward individual. His actions reinforced to me the value of dealing with a person of good character.

I have shared this story with several of my friends that are business owners and their response was fairly common.  They too also greatly value dealing with a person of good character.   But that fact that those around me hold business relationships with those of good character in such high regard, makes me realize good character from others is a valuable yet somewhat  limited commodity.

Business Ethics

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A few weeks back my teenage son and I were talking of the Tiger Woods situation regarding his many documented affairs. We both are active golfers and had admired Tiger Woods golf skills over the last 10+ years.

Golf is an interesting game and it has been said that one can learn more about a person in one round of golf than you can in multiple office based meetings. I asked my son that if Tiger Woods had “cheated” on his wife and family, do you think he may have cheated on golf.  My son said, “No,”  I said, “Why?”  He said that he thinks Tiger Woods views golf so importantly that he wouldn’t cheat on golf. So I asked him the obvious, “So you think he views cheating on golf to be worst than cheating on your wife and family and that is where he draws the line?” My teenage son said, “Yes.”

Ethics Of Financial Gain?

I have been associated with several different organizations, associations, and trade groups.  I still get a little surprised  that many of these such groups feel compelled to teach ethics.  I am in the profession of being a business broker and I work with individuals and businesses in the process of buying and selling businesses.  I consider the fact that I will treat my clients and customers in an honest, ethical, and moral manner as a given, yet when I witness others that “consistently take the high road” I take special notice. I have been a member of the business community for several decades and recognize that most all of us are on a quest to increase financial gain.  Where does ethical behaviour fit in that mix?

  • Do you feel business ethics can be taught and learned by all in the business world?
  • Is business ethics much different than normal ethics one utilizes in the everyday game of life?
  • Can ethics be taught to a 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 year old? Or is it ingrained in you before you enter the workforce?
  • Is it ok to treat someone unethically and then pass it off as “Its just business” ?  To this I say No and have always felt that.  I have never really understood “Its just business.”
  • I have never understood “I had to cheat you out of $X,  but it was just business”, ” I know I treated you wrong, but it was just business” – what does that really mean?
  • Does proper ethical behavior really require actual thought or is it more of an involuntary response that just occurs like breathing and blinking?

Is dealing with a person and expecting honest ethical behavior a given and glossed over to allow “more important business issues to be discussed”,  or is it the important issue that all else revolves around?

Start or Buy a Green Business- Measure Twice Cut Once

I believe  a disconnect exist between all the news media exposure regarding the “green movement”, “green jobs”  and the actual mindset of most small business owners and entrepreneurs.   It is no doubt that “green” has become one of the more reported on phenomenon over the last couple of years.  The  US election had strong ties to green promises  and  future jobs.  This mantra has created general optimism.  One of the most important part of starting a new business, or buying a business is the due diligence needed to evaluate the opportunity.  Do you want to start a business or buy a business in the “green Industry”?- perform some due diligence beyond reading the headlines.

Please consider that small business owners and entrepreneurs are wired to think in the now, and fast, and today and ASAP.  Much in the Green Industry is very policy driven, and that policy comes from federal and state levels, and that policy is wired to work within targets such as long term, next year , and eventually…  To me this creates a disconnect between the small business owner/entrepreneur and the potential opportunities.

Buying A Green Business – My Perspective

My interest in green is from somewhat a different perspective than many.  My real interest in Green began back in the early 1980’s and gas prices were once again going up.  The college I was attending had offered a major in Energy Management and I viewed this to be an industry with unlimited future, and I pursued and achieved my major in Energy Management.  We did experiments on Solar panels, reports on Global Warming, discussed world energy policy, nuclear and many other topics I did find interesting and still do.

Upon graduating with my Energy Management major, I got employed in the energy field and acquired further education and training.  My Entrepreneurial spirit got the best of me and the thought of starting and owning a business and being in direct control of my future had me in a start-up in a non-energy related business.  Sold that 20 years later and here we are in the year 2010 and wonder how far this exciting field has gone in the last 25 years.  It has gotten significant traction in the last years but where is it Jan. 2010?  And my interest in the green movement is its inter-relation with energy efficiency.

I enjoy the financial side of the green movement.  Tangible monies saved as a result of energy technologies and practices utilized.  I recognize the byproducts of many of these energy saving measures to be environmental benefits.  If you can save a kilowatt hour (kwhr), and that kwhr doesn’t need to be produced by a coal burning power plant, you have dual benefits.

I currently am representing  a Current business for Sale that utilizes a Green concept can be found here  at

Buy A Green Business In Florida

1000+ other businesses for sale can be found here as well including many Florida businesses for sale.

1. I am located in Florida, a state strongly hit by the depressed housing market and construction market and unemployment.  I interact with owners in the solar and energy industry and people interested in solar and renewable energy. With current policy (or lack of) in Florida, the solar industry and existing business engage in the solar industry is far from healthy in my opinion (Solar is just one aspect of the various renewable energies and green products and services that comprise the market as a whole.)

It appears to be a yo-yo type industry .  Policy injects some money into the industry, most policy is short term, policy money is exhausted and the industry slows down.  This process get repeated it seems year after year.  I also know of very qualified/licensed individual that work in the solar industry part-time, because the thought is the market is not there to support a full-time business.  I also attend Solar/energy advocacy meetings that attempt to show support of the industry that is full of individuals interested in entering this field, but where are the job opportunities?

Many jobs fall into the contractor categories, but the current market doesn’t seem able to support existing contractors.  Various consulting jobs may surface, but expertise  (that not everyone may have) is needed  and shrinking budgets from potential clients slow these opportunities down as well.

2.  Ok- so it was said that with stimulus money behind the “green movement” we would be creating lots of jobs- where are the jobs.  Numbers and statistics can be “massaged” to represent various results but certainly the empirical info in Florida is not impressive.

Buying A Green Business

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The economic stimulus bill’s investments in clean energy have not created many green jobs yet, according to the Council of State Governments.

Only 13,000 green jobs had been created or saved by the stimulus bill through Oct. 10, 2009 according to the council’s analysis of data collected by states. Ohio led the nation with 2,500 green jobs. Rhode Island, by contrast, reported no green jobs as a result of the stimulus bill.

The top programs for green jobs were the Department of Energy’s weatherization assistance program and energy efficiency block grants, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean water and drinking water state revolving funds – As reported in the Washington Business journal

3.  The Entrepreneur or business owner interest in the Green movement may be:

– “how much “green” can I make from this business opportunity ?”

-“I feel good about being in this industry that can have positive impact on the environment”

– “Am I missing out on some significant opportunities? ”

– “Can I buy an existing green business with a history of revenues and or profit?”

Conducting a search of “green or energy businesses” that are for sale that have a history of revenues and profits show very limited opportunities.  Possibly the largest opportunities are for entrepreneurs to start new ventures and build them and potentially sell those successful businesses down the road.  I am a fan of the energy saving part of the green movement and believe energy independence to be very sound policy for our country.  I support involvement and interest in this field.

But conduct proper due diligence before you proceed with your green business.  The newspapers, and news broadcast say green is great, governments are sending lots of stimulus money towards the green movement, but proper research and how you approach the “green industry”  in your part of your world will dictate your sustained success in this  potentially large industry.