If you must be selfish, then be wise and not narrow-minded in your selfishness. The key point lies in the sense of universal responsibility. That is the real source of strength, the real source of happiness. – the Dalai Lama.
There are a lot of shady internet marketers out there. A lot of people willing to do anything for a buck. But what I have found is that running an ethical business is a lot better for your wallet than cheating. So, like the Dalai Lama says above, if you are going to be selfish then why not be smart about it?
In this post I am going to talk about why ethics and honesty are super important for growing an online business and making a sustainable, healthy income.
Why I’m passionate about this
Let me just start this post by saying that I have never done anything that would be considered illegal or cheating when it comes to business. I always try to conduct myself in an honorable way. So, in some sense I can’t really say that honesty is better than cheating because I have never tried cheating.
But I can say that honesty works. That much I do know.
If you have been reading Blog Tyrant for a while you will know that one of the main reasons I wanted to run my own businesses was so that I could make money in order to help people. This site was born with the idea that I might be able to help you do the same. Yes there is some selfishness there because I know that by keeping your best interests at heart I too will grow. But I really do think that this is a better attitude than just running your business for the sake of profit, no matter the cost.
Why an ethical entrepreneur beats a cheater
Now I’d like to talk about a few reasons why I think ethics beats cheating in every sphere of business. It doesn’t matter whether you are a blogger or a banker on Wall Street.
1. It helps you build loyalty
I recently sent out a survey to my email list asking for some feedback about why they liked Blog Tyrant. Instead of setting up a multiple choice response I just left the field blank so people would write out their own reasons. The overwhelming response was trust and quality. Around 80% of people said something like:
“I like the fact that you take the time to develop a relationship with your readers. I feel like I know you.” – Anonymous survey
Please don’t think that I am telling you this to make myself look good. The whole point is that your blog or online business will grow if you develop trust with your readers and customers. All that quality information you write, the comments and emails you reply to, the tutorials and help you give… all of that is serving to build trust. And while it is far from a get-rich-quick model it does trickle down in to something big.
Marketing is now making a switch from the traditional model of just looking for new customers to one where existing customers are encouraged to become more loyal. Why? Because it is cheaper and easier. Finding brand new readers is hard after a certain point, but treating an existing reader well and making them a returning reader is much more achievable.
When you cheat you totally give up on all of this. You have a lot of one-time sales but no sustainability. People aren’t dumb.
2. It is systematic and predictable
For the most part you will find that honest and ethical online businesses are predictable and systematic in both their workload and their earnings. This is a sharp contrast to the more questionable and black hat techniques where your results vary a lot.
Let’s take a look at white hat versus black hat SEO practices as an example of this situation. Doing white hat search engine optimization work would include things like writing quality articles on a regular basis, using clean code, guest posting on authoritative blogs, using social media, etc.
Black hat SEO on the other hand is things like buying links, link farming and keyword stuffing. Now, black hat SEO can work extremely well but you can never predict how long it will last until you get banned. On the other hand, building a blog like this one where all the Google juice is natural and you can be certain of a long future.
Running and ethical business is harder in the beginning because you don’t see as many instant successes. After a while, however, it becomes the easier of the two because your results and workload are very predictable. You no longer have to guess about what will work.
3. Altruism kills stress and regrets
The last thing I wanted to talk about is the fact that when you spend your life running a business that helps people you get less stressed and you have less regrets.
Imagine working your whole life exploiting people and using them for their money only to get to the end and realize you had contributed nothing. It would be one of the hardest things to face, especially if you didn’t even have financial success. An altruistic business, on the other hand, allows you to look back and have no regrets about how you lived. Even if you don’t make much money you can think about all the people that are better off for having known you.
The interesting thing about all of this is that altruism also kill stress. I know people who work in borderline unethical jobs and they are constantly worried about the impact they are having, how long the money will last or whether they will get caught. Its a terrible way to live.
Some lessons I’ve learned
Here are some tips I have learned over the years in this area that I think are extremely worthwhile things to remember as your online businesses and blogs grow. Remember, I truly believe that these things will not just help you feel good about yourself, they will also help your business grow.
- Don’t talk about people behind their back, ever
- Don’t associate with businesses or people that try to tempt you in to doing unethical things
- Don’t try and cheat the tax department, just make more money
- Try and put your readers’ (customers’) needs before your own
- Don’t do/sell/push/promote something unless it adds value
I would really like to know whether you guys have any advice or opinions on this stuff. Have you ever tried anything that didn’t feel quite right and ended up being a bad idea? Do you have any other items that we could add to that final list? Please leave me a comment.
Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos