Bruce Thorn, a Walla Walla University School of Business graduate who has worked in business for over 35 years, shared how he had seen examples of both good and bad ethical business practices, and gave his input on staying true to your morals and avoiding unfortunate consequences.
Instead of focusing on the tragic examples of people who intentionally or unintentionally crossed ethical lines and had to face its long-lasting impacts, Thorn looked at the ethical matter in a different light by focusing on the good examples he had witnessed.
Many people believe they must compromise their morals to be successful. Thorn argued against that by sharing one of his firsthand experiences with a businessperson who very assuredly would not let go of his ethics to achieve success.
His most impactful example of good ethics came from Bill Colson, an Adventist who built a senior housing company, which was considered the largest in the world in 2007.  Thorn explained that Colson “practiced the very best kind of ethics in his business and was extremely successful in his business.” Even with thousands of employees across the world and such a large, complex company to run with all its challenges, “that never stopped him from doing the right thing.” 
An example of Colson living the ethical values he stood for was “when one of the company employees was injured and the worker’s compensation insurer was trying to settle the case for an amount Mr. Colson believed was unfair to the employee.”  While an employer could act unconcerned once it was in the insurance company’s hands, Bill Colson made sure to work with the insurer to guarantee his employee was treated fairly.
“There are many deals on Wall Street that happen every single day first based on handshake, with paperwork sometimes documented days or weeks later,” but these deals are subject to the honor, integrity, and ethics between the parties in the transaction. 
Despite people’s initial good intentions, the hard circumstances and the stress can lead people to push legal lines and take unethical alternatives. So how can people keep choosing the ethical thing to do?
Thorn’s advice to avoid inadvertently compromising your values in the face of challenges, even when being ethical is not the easiest choice, is to know very well who you are and know very clearly where your morals stand. He also emphasized how important it is for people to think about the long term instead of making decisions based solely on how they feel in the moment.
Colson family. (2015, July 1). Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/profile/colson/?sh=5cfad8c45503
Interview with Bruce Thorn, 11/01/2023.
Shaking hands. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash.