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Blog Feature

By: Dan Crawford on January 7th, 2013

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How to Navigate Your Way Through No Man's Land

You are a successful business leader. Your company has grown over the years and is profitable.No Man's Land But like many companies, you have reached the adolescent stage where you are too big to be small and too small to be big. Your business is stuck and you are too involved in everything. The company isn’t growing fast enough; you’re working harder but making less money; the old way of running things doesn’t seem to work anymore. You are stuck in No Man’s Land. How to emerge?

Perhaps you are a football fan and remember Al Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders say, “Just win Baby” – shorthand for “Whatever it takes”. If you have an investor, you have heard, “Just make your numbers” more than once. If you have a lender, the variation on the theme is, “Don’t miss your numbers”.

The temptation to cut corners or compromise one’s values is pervasive. After all, if you do whatever it takes to maintain profitability, keep staff employed, and pay your taxes, aren’t you contributing to the economy? Isn’t that a good thing? Don’t we live in a world where the tenet of caveat emptor prevails? Isn’t it the responsibility of others to make sure they know what they are buying and to double check contracts that they sign?

But consider the following data.

According to the Ethisphere Institute, firms on the World’s Most Ethical Companies list have outperformed the S&P 500 by an average of 7.3% since 2007 in terms of shareholder return.

“2011 World’s Most Ethical Companies”, Ethisphere Institute, 2011

Crawford graph 1

Companies on the list were chosen for promoting ethical business standards and practices by exceeding legal minimums for compliance, introducing innovative ideas that benefit the public and forcing their competitors to follow suit. They demonstrate how corporate citizenship is undoubtedly tied to the success of a company’s bottom line.

In addition to increased financial performance, ethical companies benefit from better brand recognition, consumer loyalty and higher employee retention rates.

Alex Brigham, Executive Director, Ethisphere Institute.

Brand Recognition

“Companies that “get it” are using ethical leadership and corporate social responsibility to drive market share, profit, and brand recognition.”

McKinsey & Company

“There clearly is a growing movement for consumers to use attributes associated with social responsibility or sustainable development in making brand choices,”

Bruce Hutton, Professor of Marketing, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver

Consumer Loyalty

“Can an organization really influence customers with the way that it conducts its business? My answer to that question, having been in this business about 28 years, is yes.”

Don Knauss, CEO of Clorox

“Our track record in ethical business practices and strong environmental performance is a business differentiator strengthening our competitive advantage,”

Jan Johansson, President and CEO of Sweden-headquartered hygiene and paper company SCA.

Employee Retention

32% of U. S. workers are thinking about leaving their jobs

Mercer What’s Working Survey, Oct, 2011

36% of U.S. workers have left a job because they disagreed with a company’s ethical standards

LRN surveys

Replacing an exempt employee can cost an amount equal to their annual salary or more

Data supports estimates to 3X annual compensation or more

When you are contemplating which direction to take to move your business forward, and emerge from No Man’s Land, consider the views expressed above—and use your moral compass to help you find the high road. It is one of the surest and most sustainable paths to business success.


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