While planning my on-line antique boutique I considered how I wanted my company to be perceived by the public. While small and growing, ethical considerations are mostly personal and involve my own personal character and conscience. However, as my company grows and interacts with the social media world it will be important that my company and potential employees represent the ethics and morality that I believe in. A frequent contributor to Forbes recently discussed the transparency of businesses in today’s world where shopping and communication is dominated by social media. Ethical decisions are paramount because, “Someone else always is going to find out!” (Aileron, 2013). Given the importance of ethics in decision making and the potential effect it may have on business I see this veterinary hospital scenario as the perfect example to explain the ethical stance for my business.
Ethics played a role in determining the mark up for the items I sell. A standard mark up for small retailers is around 50%. This percentage is known as the keystone markup in the trade (Bond, 2008). Ethical pricing involves factors such as what the traffic will bear, the demand for a particular item, and what expenses demand to support profitability. My sample income statement utilizes an average keystone markup assuming some items will be “hotter” than others and my on-line “packaging” of the items will create demand.

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For the veterinary scenario I have chosen to discuss from the Consequentialist approach, Ethical Egoism and from the Nonconsequentialist approach, Virtue Ethics. Ethical Egoism, the belief that each individual should act in their own interest may have motivated Sam to simply pocket the cash because it appeared that little harm would come of it, however, this digression would require a forgery of a receipt for Mr. Ordine, resulting in two digressions. Enter Virtue Ethics which takes the position that a virtuous individual will act in a virtuous manner. It seems from the scenario that expedience more than greed was the primary motivating factor but adding the necessary act of secretly forging a receipt should have been enough for Virtue Ethics to overcome the Ethical Egoism associated with simply pocketing the money.

A weakness of Virtue Ethics is that it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly which characteristics are virtues. Furthermore, in this specific example, a busy veterinarian might conclude that caring for the patients in a timely manner is a higher priority and, therefore, more virtuous than taking the time to perform all of the necessary details associated with reporting a small amount of cash appropriately on the ledger. But the forgery is required nonetheless. The strength of Ethical Egoism leading to Sam’s ultimate decision may have been that expedience would satisfy his priority of caring for patients which carries more weight on Sam’s virtue scale than reporting a small sum of cash accurately.

Should an auditor discover this and it becomes common knowledge among the employees I believe it will hurt Sam’s credibility as well as set a poor example for the employees. There is a school of thought that individuals who take shortcuts when it comes to small things will take shortcuts when it comes to big things. It also sets the example that it is ok to take short cuts for expediency sake. These are not good lessons for employees. This would have been a good opportunity for Sam to demonstrate to his people that minor things are important, details matter, and integrity is practiced by the leader and expected from everyone regardless of circumstance. Sam could have explained to the receptionist what happened and directed her to make the necessary entries to reflect the sum properly and create the invoice, thus reflecting Virtue Ethics by example without explaining it directly. Virtue Ethic’s characteristic of allowing one to overcome the weakness of one approach by utilizing the strength of another appeals to me. These would be the virtuous characteristics I would expect of my employees.

  • Aileron. (February 21, 2013). How Small Business Owners Walk The Ethical Line. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/aileron/2013/01/21/how-small-business-owners-walk- the-ethical-line/
  • Bond, R. (200, May 28, 2008). ). Finding The Right Price for Your Retail Products, Entrepreneur [journal]. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/193986