We’re taught right off the bat in business that cash is king. It’s all about profit, the bottom line, and expanding revenues. And while money is undeniably important in a business, I do believe our values in how we conduct business is a chief consideration. Money should never come before ethics. 

Of course, this can sound standard, like something everyone knows. But the truth is, there are many entrepreneurs who may be crossing the money and ethics line without really knowing it, because we see it modeled so frequently. I believe the only way to really know for sure is to have honest conversations about where we, as business owners, may be valuing money over helping others. The honest exchange of goods and services for money will always be inherently helpful. But, where does profit matter more than impact?

In thinking through examples I’ve seen in today’s “guru” oriented industry, I believe the following three scenarios demonstrate happenings that occur more frequently than many like to admit… especially in coaching. But, assessing them is a good opportunity to determine whether you are living by an ethics-first value in your own life and business.

1. Offering a service or coaching without plenty of experience. 

Unfortunately, there are many coaching programs out there where ‘gurus’ teach students strategies and principles that they haven’t actually learned on their own. This happens in droves: coaches who have never actually built a business from the ground up teach business bootcamps, simply from what they have learned elsewhere (rather than from their own experience). Even if an aspiring coach studies all the educational content in the world about how to start a business, inviting students or clients into the fold without the insights from real-world experience can be an example of valuing money over ethics. 

It comes down to this question: can you really and sincerely help the students that will trust you and buy from you? Or, do you just know that they will buy from you because of your airtight marketing strategy and PR efforts? If it’s the latter, you’re wasting peoples’ time and money for content that won’t actually help them. This is harmful for you in the long run, too — you’ll receive less (if any) glowing testimonials, and students will be honest about how much you actually helped.

2. Copy & pasting someone else’s hard-earned business model or content. 

There’s also a tendency to completely model businesses or content after what someone else is doing, since everything is so public nowadays. You can only know for sure if this is something you are doing if you are self-reflective of how you are creating, such as by getting a creative business idea only after you see someone else is launching something similar. This isn’t fair to others in your industry. Think of it this way: what if you ideated an entirely new course module with a unique mastermind concept attached to it, and launched it only to see someone else shortly after launch something that mimicked the model?

The truth is, people can sense the energy of authenticity. Even if you think someone’s model or content is incredible, that’s never a reason to copy it. Learn from how they think, but launch a product that’s all yours.

3. Only offering paid services and content with little free value. 

Finally, assess how often you give out value for free. I’m not at all advising you to leave your calendar open to help anyone who wants to book time with you. But, there needs to be a balance in which you are seeking to offer some type of value that doesn’t have a price tag. I firmly believe that the ethics of business is helping others, and this is where push comes to shove. Does it matter more to you to HELP, or to make a profit?

These can be uncomfortable questions, but the silver lining is that it’s the individuals and businesses that help others MOST that end up making the most profit. You don’t have to choose ethics OR money. Just put ethics first, hold your intention to help others as front and center, and create products or services that people love.