3 Distinctives of Christian Business Ethics

Business ethics are a hot topic these days. With everything from insider trading to employee theft on the rise, it is no wonder that businesses are beginning to focus on the impact of ethical leadership. But along with this new focus comes a lot of “gray area.” Many times, managers are forced to decide on issues where there are arguments on both sides – a problem that makes ethical decision-making very difficult.

 “Business ethics” is often regarded as an oxymoron, in the way that “military intelligence” and “open secret” are considered to be counterintuitive. Given that business has to do with promoting one’s business for profit or self-interest, while ethics concerns serving or caring for others, the term “business ethics” sounds contradictory. For this reason, important questions arise concerning the possibility of business ethics as such: How is business ethics possible? Is there such a thing as business ethics?

Philosophers would try to answer this question through the so-called bottom-line approach (aka someone is ethically good as long as he or she does not break any of the laws of society). How should a Christian, then, respond to the question? Is it good enough for a Christian not to break any laws in the business world? If not, what makes Christian business ethics unique and distinguishable from the general philosophical approach?

First we’ll look at general business ethics, followed by what I think are three important Christian distinctives.

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Marketing Alchemy: Turning Lead into Platinum

Graduated cylinders and beaker filled with chemical compounds

Alchemy.

For many of us, this word brings to mind images of crazy madmen in the Middle Ages in dingy basements trying to turn base metals into gold. While this may not be too far from the truth, marketers can learn a lesson from the alchemists of old.

In marketing, there is a common rule that says 20% of a company’s customers contribute 80% of the company’s revenue. Marketers often refer to these individuals as “platinum customers.” Platinum customers have a high lifetime value for a company and are relatively cheap to retain. Not only do these customers contribute a significant sum of money to a company, but they also tend to serve as brand advocates. In other words, they are the type of customers that a company wants to attract and multiply. The most profitable 20% of customers can contribute anywhere between 150-300% of a company’s profits! Alas, not everyone can be platinum, despite what their mothers tell them. Marketers also categorize consumers into “gold,” “iron,” and “lead” groups. Customers in the least profitable 10-20% (primarily lead and some iron) can actually reduce profits somewhere between 50-200%! One of the primary jobs of marketers is to convert as many customers as possible into gold and platinum while “firing” the majority of lead customers. So, how can a marketer do this? Below are just a few ways:

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