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Wyoming Business Tips for April 12-18

April 3, 2015

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Chris Bauer, ethics expert and humorist speaker, guest columnist

“Is it really worth it for my business to worry about business ethics?” Greg, Laramie

This is similar to a presentation topic I provide called “Ethics, Compliance and Accountability: From Kumbaya to Bottom-Line Value.”

We’ve all been taught (hopefully!) that the best thing is to do the right thing. Certainly so, but when we think of how ethics, compliance and accountability fit into the world of business, they are most frequently seen as some combination of feel-good issue -- ethics -- a have-to mandate -- compliance -- or a natural byproduct of the other two -- accountability.

Unfortunately, when viewed through those eyes, it’s easy to lose sight of how much conscious effort all three require, as well as how much each contributes to sustained business success.

Research by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, among others, shows that businesses lose as much as 5 to 7 percent of their bottom line each year to ethics-related fraud and financial abuse. That is a huge hit -- and, of course, fraud and abuse are just one piece of the ethics pie.

Add the rest of that pie, as well as the losses caused by accountability-related reputational issues, and we are suddenly in the zone of serious business consequences that must be addressed consciously, intentionally and head-on.

With so much at risk, why do business people have such a tough time focusing on ethics, compliance and accountability? Mostly because, as human beings, we are amazingly well wired to convince ourselves that whatever we are doing is the right thing. Consequently, we develop huge blind spots that lead us to see ethics and compliance risks in others, but rarely in ourselves.

The first step? Being aware that no matter how good our intentions are, all of us -- and all of our businesses -- carry a considerable amount of risk for ethics, compliance and accountability lapses, and we need to make addressing those risks a consistent, conscious priority.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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