Added values

With everything it takes to run a business, defining corporate values
can often be low on the to-do list.

But what will you, your managers and your
employees refer to when faced with an ethically challenging situation? Making up the
rules as you go shouldn’t be an option.

Smart Business spoke to Ginny Beneke,
vice president of regional operations and
marketing at National University, about the
importance of setting a precedent and
sticking to it.

Where should an ethical mindset begin in a

The important thing about an ethical
organization is that it has to start at the top.
Just like anything else, it’s a business practice, but it’s really a cultural principle that
sets a foundation of what is right and
wrong. Then, within the different departments, you would implement that as an

It’s important that it’s done through training both for internal purposes and external
purposes, such as customer service. It’s relevant for the external and for training internally to have corporate core values that
you all believe in, and then to reinforce
those through correspondence, communications, meetings, business practices and
policies, and customer service. So it’s really setting the clear expectations of what it
means to be ethical in that organization
and then reinforcing it through training and
your practices.

At the end of the day, it’s not always the
easiest thing to do, but it’s what’s fair and
what’s right and helps people feel good
about working there. And customers like
to be treated fairly: instead of just getting
the good deal, they’re treated fairly and
justly. We all like to feel that way, whether
it’s within our own organizations or dealing
with other organizations.

Can defining ethics sometimes become an

It can. People tend to think about their
businesses too much. They’re busy creating the deal and creating the business model. They sometimes forget to create an
overall principle and underlying ethical
foundation. You also have to create a
model upon which to base your decisions
and your business policy: how you want
people to treat each other and how you
want people to treat their customers.
Because it has to work both ways. You
can’t expect your employees to treat your
customers right and with respect, and then
not do that internally within your own
organization. It has to be ingrained within
both areas of the company.

What are some roadblocks?

How you define ethics may be different
for different people. It’s very hard to say
what is right, what is wrong. People may
have a different opinion on that and set different boundaries. Sometimes an owner
will overlook setting boundaries. If you
think about it, it’s very hard to manage
those principles within your business. It’s
almost like tough love — these are things
we have to want in an organization, how
we treat people, how we talk to people, the
decisions we make — making sure that it’s
fair and ethical. It’s a very tough thing,
because it’s something that’s not normally taught, but it’s something that does provide
an important structure in the company.

Are there resources for someone wanting to
create an ethical organization?

We took the Ritz Carlton training program
on customer service. So there are training
programs around customer service and
there are training programs around organization design. Stating your values and then
incorporating them into both internal and
external training are important. Going outside the company creates a benchmark
against what’s there and how you can use
that information within your company.

How can ethical values be clearly stated and

A lot of companies have values cards that
employees carry with them. Our values are
stated on our Web site.

To clearly set expectations is important,
whether that’s on a card or whether it’s just
reinforced by the owner or CEO. Make it a
part of orientation training for new employees and ongoing training.

There should be employee rewards for
good customer service. If someone does
something really nice, he or she gets what
we call an A+ card. It reinforces the values
of respecting and appreciating other employees and creating good customer service relations between them.

We also do a lot of rewards and recognition. It’s not just that people get things
done, it’s the attitude and the way they
treat people. So it’s important to ingrain
your values in a lot of things that are done
throughout your organization. This attitude
should also be reinforced in business practices, meetings, the way you conduct meetings, and so on.

It’s a tough thing to do — it can be as
tough as running a business — but at the
end of the day I think we all want to feel
good about having the opportunity to do
what’s right.

GINNY BENEKE is vice president of regional operations and
marketing at National University. Reach her at (858) 642-8357 or
[email protected].