Business Ethics

Business handshake defining ethics

Over course of time I have met number of business owners and have been shocked to hear stories of how few service providers have made them run from pillar to post for simple tasks right to fleecing them with their hard earned money. Such discussion always makes me wonder what business ethics these provider have or the complete lack of it. Doing business with a client to my company is not one time process but a deep relationship that is to last a very long time. The relationship should be built on providing excellent service at a competitive cost. Trust can only be established if both parties adhere to certain ethical standards of  conducting business. Let me recount two of such incidents to understand what I meant by business ethics

Case 1: A western country national of Arab origin arrives in Bahrain for the first time, he and his family like the country. They feel this place has good people, society is very nice to raise children and the potential is good for their expertise. They are completely correct on all the three aspects. So the businessman goes about establishing his business and as minimum requirement hes needs to setup a professional office. A business cannot work without good operational process for which hardware, software, network and other IT related services are needed. The businessman meets few people of which one connects him to a local technology supplier. I, unfortunately, contact the businessman just after he had given the contract to this company. However, being a gentleman that he is takes down my contact number for any future needs. After about 4 months out of the blue he contacts me with few hardware and IP telephony requirement. I ask my technician to get the complete requirements and send a quotation.

The twist in the tale happens when our quotation reaches the client. He is quiet shocked at the pricing that we offered for items which he had purchased recently from the other services provided. The specifications and the brand model number were exactly the same but there was about 30% difference in our pricing. He immediately approves our quote and we deliver the items promptly. Our technician not just delivers it but makes sure the hardware is connected to the network and user are able to use it without any delay. During the course of this deal the businessman gets to know our line of services and asks for assisting him with some more requirements. Yet again it is promptly delivered.

As a gesture of gratitude I visit the client and during our meeting we establish a mutual admiration and respect for each other. He open up about his experience with the other service provider and ask me for approximate pricing of various items. The more I reply to him the more his facial expression pales. I ask him if everything is fine and if there is anything I can assist him with. He pulls out the paid invoices of services that he has taken from the other service provider pricing of which were far from competitive. They were more on lines of robbery or fleecing. The other service provider had used the businessman’s lack of knowledge to their effect very well. Financially, I calculated that about BD 3000 to BD 4000 was taken extra from this businessman. While some may argue that the businessman is at fault for not doing market research before giving the contract I counter that the service providers should have been fair with the pricing. Specially in this case of a person who is new to the country and does not have many ways and means of conducting search. In such situation one needs to extend the warmth and hospitality that is engraved into the culture of this beautiful country. 

Case 2: A decent sized business were approached by an international company to installing a business management software. Funds were transferred to the seller and then the wait began. After about 3 months the seller contact the business to have a server ready in Bahrain for completing the installation. The business finds us online and asks us to provide quotation based on the specification. We send the quotation with all the specification of the server which is followed up with number of discussion about various aspects of the hardware and operating software. The business IT person has basic knowledge hence keeps calling us for assistance which we provide even though no transaction has been conducted. In the end we realize that the business has paid for s solution which is no where in sight and the seller has yet to give any timeline or road map of how and when the installation will occur, training’s to the user and timelines of after-sales support. As of the date of this post nothing has been installed and the business is still waiting for their software.

In both cases I find that service providers lack basic business ethics. The first case  is of accumulating as much money out of client as possible. It is not about building any relationship. In the second case delivery of service should have been done promptly which did not occur. A business often sinks substantial amount of capital into software for enhancing their process leading better return on investments. Delay in providing the contracted service is eating up the bottom-line.

In words of Milton Friedman, “the only entities who can have responsibilities are individuals … A business cannot have responsibilities.”

So the question here is who are these people who are running shoddy places. Arent they responsible for providing on-time service at their best ability at a competitive rate? Being the man at the helm of the company it is my prime duty that my clients gets services promptly at a pricing that they are happy to pay. When they compare our pricing with the market they should get comfort that is is very much inline with the market. There should be fairness and transparency between the service provider and the client.  There should be moral principles to guide how a business is to be done. This not jut applies to the company but to every individual working in it. The should be a clear barrier of what is right and what is wrong. Over charging and not delivering service promptly falls into the wrong side of the barrier. Yes the client over-paid for the the items but as experienced company we know the real price in the market hence are morally responsible for pricing it right. I leave with an excellent quote by the 

Oracle of Omaha, Mr. Warren Buffet, ” Honesty is a very expensive gift – don’t expect it from cheap people.”

Muzammil Nasir

Managing Director of 9T9 IT - Bahrain. A self taught coding geek and an expert at automating business process to save cost, improve efficiencies and bring out standardization.

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