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Business Ethics Are Always Black & White

When is it okay to be unethical in business today? The answer is Never!No, I’m not trying to be funny or a smart-ass. The simple truth is when it comes to ethics, all the things we do define who we are and whether we are ethical business people. After all, what parts of our business interactions — whether retail or wholesale — don’t call for us to act with honesty, fairness, respect and a “do-whatever-is-right” conviction?

One case in point is the Internet pricing policy provision in many dealer agreements and/or in many manufacturers’ operating policies that call for dealers to advertise only the MSRP on the Net. But violations of such Internet policies are reportedly on the increase.

“Hey, these are tough times and we should look past it,” some might suggest. No, what makes it unethical is not the advertised cut price per se, but the fact that these dealers agreed, by signing up for the line in the first place, to abide by such an Internet policy. In other words, when it comes to ethics, there are no time outs and no issues too small to be meaningful. Moreover, a short term solution like low pricing hyped on the Net will have a negative long term impact for everyone.

On the flip side, it is equally important that manufacturers step up to the plate with more than lip service when there is a violation of the policy. It’s more than fair for dealers to expect their builders to demonstrate their commitment to the policy by taking firm action against any dealer who isn’t, even to the extreme of providing some form of compensation to those dealers negatively impacted. Ignoring such situations leaves those dealers who honor the policy out in the cold. And, that is just as unethical as the dealer who ignores the policy.

Whether we’re talking about dealer-to-customer relationships or manufacturer-to-dealer cooperation, doing “what I said I’d do” is the cornerstone of good business ethics. Conversely, not doing “what I said I wouldn’t do” is also part of the same stone.

That’s the way I see it, what about you?


3 comments on “Business Ethics Are Always Black & White

  1. Doug Reimel

    Way to go Norm. I have been arguing about this for a long time. One manufacturer I deal with stepped up big in order to enforce this very policy. They canceled the violating dealer, Hurray. And yet they penalized him by leaving him with the inventory to dispose of. So the violating dealer proptly lowered the prices well below dealer cost. The manufacturer promptly replied:” the violating dealer is no longer an authorized dealer. His inventory sale is not our problem.” Yes they washed their hands of the dirty situation they created. The violating dealer was their third largest dealer and muddied the market up for 9 months disposing of the inventory. Either way the problem was not taken care of proffesionaly. Yes we are in the process of no longer doing business with this manufacture. But as usual somebody will pick the line up down the road. Great product just bad management. If anybody wants to know who this manufacturer is I will gladly tell you.

  2. Doug Reimel

    When the MBA arrived in the boat business, out the door went the hand shake and a man’s word as his bond. Now everything is a grey area subject to interpretation. What was the definition “is” again?

  3. Tom Wagner

    Having your MBA is not the problem (I do not have an MBA) it boils down to a growing business climate devoid of character, integrity and ethics. This most certainly is not unique to the marine industry, as a CPA working with other industries, I see this in all waterways of business…

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