Ethics in the Consulting Industry: Reality or Illusion?

In the years following the 2008 recession, businesses are regaining their momentum, and the economy has begun flourishing again. In the wake of the most ferocious financial earthquake of the last 80 years, society continues to feel its tremors. Is this a sign of evolvement and growth? Or is it a warning of a more catastrophic phenomenon on the horizon? Unemployment is down and a majority of economists are optimistic about the future. Organizations are expanding globally, and leaders are striving to attach their names to their companies’ successes. But is this enough? Is success and welfare the only measures of success? Do leaders of organizations decide in favor of the well-being of their enterprises, or do they follow their own narrow ambitions? The pursuit of personal interests is the initiator of a capitalist economy, but that does not justify actions that harm organizations, the people they serve, or society as a whole. So the “do no harm” business ethics debate rages on, expanding and infecting the “trusted advisers” of the consulting industry.Consultants Should Do No HarmIn management consulting, executives and consultants are primarily responsible for creating value and safeguarding the interests of their clients, however they should also protect society by pursuing their goals in an ethical manner. Of course, they focus on their clients’ businesses making sound profit, shareholder equity and continuous growth, but it is also their responsibility to align the interests of their clients with the general good.They have an obligation to recognize that there are multiple stakeholders, customers, employees, society and the environment, not just shareholders and management. They should act with the utmost integrity, and serve the greater good, with an enhanced sense of joint accountability. It is vital to realize that their actions have profound consequences for everyone, inside and outside the organization, now and in the long run. Consulting companies, should focus more on ethical guidance, as they hold significant influence over many companies’ strategy and plans.Consulting companies (strategy, management, accounting, etc.) have an obligation to advise their clients on how to build their successful enterprises on a solid foundations, and to help them achieve sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity. It is their responsibility to not distort or hide the truth behind facts, but to explain the truth and promote transparency. They must also demonstrate to their client’s ethical ways to achieve their goals. But is this what is happening today?Double-dealing, Fraud, Corruption, Insider trading and that’s just the tip of the icebergIf we take a close look at incidents that have occurred in the recent past, we find a rotten record of behaviors in the management consulting industry. Numerous examples exist of partners and employees of major management consulting firms being involved in illegal and unethical scandals, in efforts to retain clients and to harvest personal gains. This is a common among people who put their profits before customers.An example of the crisis we face in consulting is that of a former partner of a global consulting firm, who was sentenced to prison for 21 months because of his involvement in insider trading. This executive was a liaison between the consulting firm’s auditors and the audit team of the clients. He had access to non- public information, such as planned or potential acquisitions, quarterly earnings, etc. From 2006-2008 he illegally used inside information for personal and family market gains. Finally, after the scandal was revealed, the SEC brought charges and the firm sued him. He ended up paying significant penalties and being sentenced to prison time. Shouldn’t the consulting firm have been aware of its employees’ actions, and made an effort to instill ethics in them?Going forward, we highlight another significant scandal that shook the consulting world in 2008. A former executive of a huge consulting firm, also a director at another global operating company, was found guilty of insider trading, sentenced to two years prison time, and ordered to pay a fine of $5 million, for trading on information obtained at a company board meeting. This information concerned the approval of a $5 billion investment during the economic session of 2008. The person that received the information purchased stock in the company and recognized immediate gains. The company was already being investigated by the FBI, and when the culprit was discovered discussing non-public information with the executive, the scheme was revealed. This was a significant hit for the consulting firm, which to that point had publicly promoted the ethics that we espouse. The firm took another hit when it was involved in an accounting scandal for a different client. The client, a large and international company, hired and paid the consulting firm $10 million per year for advisory fees concerning strategy and operations. The consulting company provided consultancy during the client’s transformation, from an emphasis on natural gas to a wide range of interests in water, timber, and high speed internet. During this period of consulting, the client company experienced several cases of accounting fraud, and a multitude of financial irregularities involving their balance sheet and income statements. It also led to massive layoffs and a ruthless HR policy. Ultimately, the company filed for bankruptcy, and the consulting firm still bears the negative mark of the scandals. The consulting firm cannot be accused directly, but how can it claim innocence when it was the strategy adviser of the company? Is it possible that they knew the truth and did not speak up, for fear of losing the client?The last example of corruption is the case of a managing director of a global beer company, who hired a consulting firm to develop a strategic plan for the company. However, he also had an ulterior motive to unseat his deputy chairman. During the two years that the consulting firm advised the company, it sold off 150 companies, and its profits increased by six times. This increase was primarily due their strategic diversification into the hard liquor industry and their purchase of several other firms. However, the beer firm was thought to have purchased its own stock to falsely inflate its stock price, and using fraudulent and deceitful means of beating competitors’ bids for a company that it purchased. The consulting firm denied involvement in the illegal actions, but its vice president was the main advisor of the director of the beer company.These examples represent a small part of the dishonest and unethical situation that has plagued the consulting industry. Who would expect large consulting companies, known for their ethics and transparent operations, to be involved in significant fraud or unethical actions and decisions? Is this the business world in which we want to live? Consulting firms have great responsibility, because they are responsible for building and delivering the strategies of their clients, influencing them, and working closely with their leaders. They are supposed to enhance the value of organizations and society in general, using all available resources.Consulting Industry Ethics RevolutionThe dishonest and illegal actions of consulting firms must stop. Leaders from all consulting organizations have to set an example and establish and promote new business ethics that will entail honesty, trust, and hard work, and that will be followed by everyone within their organizations. This ethical environment must be fostered by management, and become an integral part of the strategies and operations of consulting firms. The time has come for consulting firms to become leaders in promoting ethics and good business practices. The public must regain its trust in businesses, both consulting firms and their clients. This trust has been shaken by the high number of business scandals in the recent past. While it seems clear that some government regulation is needed to enforce honesty and adherence to the law, this regulation will fail to solve the problem if the leaders of the consulting industry are not willing to lead this change.Ethics are particularly important in the consulting industry, due to the influence that these firms hold over a large number and wide variety of global companies. Consulting firms are hired to assist clients in a variety of important endeavors, and to develop strategies that promote growth and success. Because they specialize in helping businesses to succeed, their advice hold great sway over company’s decisions. It is therefore logical to assume that an ethical consulting firm, that promotes legal and honest business practices, will promote these ethical practices in the firms that it consults. Conversely, a firm that promotes the ethos of success at any cost, with a lack of regard for ethical practices, will promote this type of behavior in its clients. It must be the obligation of consulting firms to demonstrate to clients that ethical behavior can lead to success for the company, its employees, its clients, and society as a whole. The leadership and behavior of the leaders of consulting firms not only affect the behavior of their own employees, but also the management and employees of all of the companies for which they consult.The large number of high-publicity business scandals that have occurred in the near past have caused significant harm to the public’s perception of and trust in the business community. The financial crisis of 2008 was also a significant contributor to this decreasing level of trust, as the irresponsible, and sometimes illegal, strategies and practices of many businesses were revealed. This demonstrates the effect that unethical business practices can have on society as a whole. The financial crisis was partially caused by unethical behavior in the financial industry. This caused businesses to collapse, unemployment to skyrocket, and a general decrease in the trust that people had for business culture. For this trust to be regained, a dedication to ethical behavior must be espoused.Ethics drive action and decision-making, and also define how companies are perceived by their employees, their customers, and the public. A successful and sustainable business must have a culture that promotes good behavior and ethical practices. As we have seen in several real life examples, there are numerous cases of businesses losing clients and money, and employees losing their jobs and facing criminal consequences, because of unethical behavior. Acting unethically does not lead to success in the long run. Companies that succeed long term are those that act with honesty, integrity and solid morale.Consultants OathConsulting firms influence their clients and help to develop strategies that lead to business success. Ethical behavior is an imperative part of success. It is therefore necessary for consulting companies to have an ethical code, like the medical profession has The Hippocratic Oath. Ethical behavior must be encouraged in the consulting industry, so that it can be passed on to the other industries that it influences. Managers and employees must believe in this positive behavior, and understand its importance.Consultants have the opportunity to be leaders in encouraging ethical business practices. This opportunity can help to bring success to their clients while at the same time benefiting society as a whole. Enough examples of negative behavior have occurred in the consulting industry and in business in general. It is time to lead by example, and to promote success with ethical behavior. This is an important opportunity for our industry, and it is important that it is not wasted. Time is of essence, so let’s create today a future as we envision it.

Starting Your Business With Little Cash

As recent as ten years ago starting a business, any business, cost a lot of money. Cash outlay was thousands of dollars and there was no way to get around that. The barrier to entry into the world of small business was set high enough that not everyone could jump in. Times have changed. Now, with just a couple hundred dollars you can start your own business online.Besides business rent and equipment, usually a business owner’s biggest expense is marketing. Traditional marketing by mail or in person is expensive and has been largely replaced by online marketing tactics. Online you can reach hundreds or thousands of people quickly and without breaking the bank. Pay for finding visitors to your website using Pay Per Click (PPC) services, direct email marketing, banner ads, or through commissions to affiliates marketing your products for you. There are many ways to market online, nearly all of them better than traditional marketing practices.Ways to Save Cash as You Start Your Business1. Work at Home – Forget an office building for as long as you can. Online businesses, even the top bloggers in the world like Darren Rowse, still work out of their home offices. Think about the delicious tax deductions for working out of your home too.2. Rent Equipment – If you live in or near a major city you can likely rent out computer equipment you need for your business. Rented equipment is deductible on taxes and you are not responsible for it when it breaks on its own. You can have the latest made electronics at a great rate without spending the entire amount outright as you would buying it in a store.3. Learn the Basics about everything you have to do. Graphics, SEO, marketing, copyrighting, lead generation and growing your business are all things you should get up to speed on as fast as possible. If you are not already competent with the basics of these topics it would pay you over time to do so. Even if you are going to outsource work in these areas you still need to be able to talk intelligently about them. Start reading or watching video tutorials online.4. Work in the Cloud. Google Apps are a suite of applications that mimic Microsoft Office, and yet there is one major distinction. They are free. They are in the internet cloud and accessible from anywhere you can login. There is no need to take files with you on memory stick or send files via email – just login to your Google account and find them from where ever you are.5. Pay Per Click – Search engines, FaceBook, and other companies offer you a chance to pay for each click on an ad you run with the company. When someone clicks your ad they are taken to your website or landing page that talks about your product or service. Cost can be as little as 1 cent per click, or, if competition is high – a couple of dollars per click. Pay Per Click is an area of marketing every business should become educated about.6. Email Leads – Start collecting email addresses from visitors at your website from day one. Using Aweber.com or a similar service, start collecting visitors email addresses with an opt-in form so you can email them in the future with a permission-based email marketing program.7. Partnerships – find parallel businesses that offer something you do not and work with them in partnership to sell some of their products or services as they sell yours. Think about trading services business to business to help you save money. Online you can trade banners with another site so neither of you have to spend cash outright.Starting a business need not involve a lot of expenses that traditional business owners spend for granted. Spend time now to learn as many pieces of the puzzle as possible because it will save you a lot of money long-term. There are things you can do yourself, and things you have to outsource. Better if you do not have to outsource everything and can do some on your own. Educating yourself now will save you considerable cash as your business matures.

S&P 500 Rallies As U.S. Dollar Pulls Back Towards Weekly Lows

Key Insights
The strong pullback in the U.S. dollar provided significant support to stocks.
Treasury yields have pulled back after touching new highs, which served as an additional positive catalyst for S&P 500.
A move above 3730 will push S&P 500 towards the resistance level at 3760.
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Pfizer Rallies After Announcing A Huge Price Hike For Its COVID-19 Vaccines
S&P 500 is currently trying to settle above 3730 as traders’ appetite for risk is growing. The U.S. dollar has recently gained strong downside momentum as the BoJ intervened to stop the rally in USD/JPY. Weaker U.S. dollar is bullish for stocks as it increases profits of multinational companies and makes U.S. equities cheaper for foreign investors.

The leading oil services company Schlumberger is up by 9% after beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Schlumberger’s peers Baker Hughes and Halliburton have also enjoyed strong support today.

Vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna gained strong upside momentum after Pfizer announced that it will raise the price of its coronavirus vaccine to $110 – $130 per shot.

Biggest losers today include Verizon and Twitter. Verizon is down by 5% despite beating analyst estimates on both earnings and revenue. Subscriber numbers missed estimates, and traders pushed the stock to multi-year lows.

Twitter stock moved towards the $50 level as the U.S. may conduct a security review of Musk’s purchase of the company.

From a big picture point of view, today’s rebound is broad, and most market segments are moving higher. Treasury yields have started to move lower after testing new highs, providing additional support to S&P 500. It looks that some traders are ready to bet that Fed will be less hawkish than previously expected.

S&P 500 Tests Resistance At 3730

S&P 500 has recently managed to get above the 20 EMA and is trying to settle above the resistance at 3730. RSI is in the moderate territory, and there is plenty of room to gain additional upside momentum in case the right catalysts emerge.

If S&P 500 manages to settle above 3730, it will head towards the next resistance level at 3760. A successful test of this level will push S&P 500 towards the next resistance at October highs at 3805. The 50 EMA is located in the nearby, so S&P 500 will likely face strong resistance above the 3800 level.

On the support side, the previous resistance at 3700 will likely serve as the first support level for S&P 500. In case S&P 500 declines below this level, it will move towards the next support level at 3675. A move below 3675 will push S&P 500 towards the support at 3640.