This year, Mediabarn turned 10 years old. Our official incorporation date was January 1, 2004. Some days it seems like that was 2 years ago, while some days it seems like it was 20. Being in business for 10 years has forced us into a tough task: self examination. We have been taking a look at ourselves in order to figure out what went right and what went wrong to allow us to stay viable for far longer than most small businesses. Our obvious goal for this introspection is to repeat the positives and correct the negatives in order for us to continue growing.
This will be the first installment in a series of observations that we have made over the past 10 years. They will be guided by our experiences along with various topics that we have found to be helpful over a number of branches in business.
Maintaining Your Ethics
One of the main principles we try to maintain at Mediabarn is a high ethical standard. As we all know, at times our ethics are under varying degrees of assault. Sometimes making an ethical choice can seem at odds with making a practical one, especially when money is involved. We believe making ethical decisions is actually right in line with also being practical. It’s important for us to maintain our ethical standards for two main reasons: 1. Doing the right thing makes us happy and 2. As a business, it’s smart.
A while back, I read a great book: There’s No Such Thing As “Business” Ethics by John C. Maxwell. The moral of the story is, whether you’re conducting business or acting in your personal life, the same ethical standards apply. Maxwell uses The Golden Rule as the core value that should be applied in your business life as it is in your personal one. He describes ways in which The Rule can be exceeded, and how specifically doing so benefits your business. It’s a quick, easy read and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s still one of the most influential books I’ve read when it comes to maintaining a high ethical standard.
So, how do we define a high standard? That will be different for everyone, and rightfully so. The real answer for us comes in the form of our daily decision making. If we believe something is “right,” we do it. That answer may sound over-simplified, and on some levels it is. However, the more consistently we apply this way of thinking, the easier the decisions become.
Ok, then, how do we define “right?” The main answer is by our gut, and by talking through the issue. I believe when it comes to making decisions that contain an ethical component, we have two powerful tools: other people and empathy (recall: The Golden Rule). The key here is putting yourself into someone else’s shoes and working through how they would feel with the different possible outcomes. This works even better when you involve other people, considering empathy gets a lot easier with other people contributing to the conversation.
The practical part of the equation is the easy part. We’ve seen that maintaining a high ethical standard allows for such positive impacts on our business as:
1) Clients trust us.
– We have several clients that have been with us for over 9 years!
– Nearly all of the client work we have done is a result of personal network connections, client referrals, and client repeat business.
2) Committed Talent.
– 8 employees that have been with us for over 5 years; 4 of which have been with us for all 10!
– We also have a number of consultants/freelancers that have been with us for over 6 years.
Thriving in business depends on a lot of things. There is no question, however, that we depend completely on the people we both work with and for. In return for us trying to do right by them, they have done right by us. As a business, if you can achieve loyal customers and surround yourself with dedicated talent, you will position yourself for success.