Module 1: Code of Conduct

THIS MODULE WILL TAKE AN ESTIMATED 30-60 MINUTES TO COMPLETE. PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU CANNOT SAVE YOUR PROGRESS AND RETURN TO IT AT A LATER TIME – IT MUST BE COMPLETED IN ONE SITTING.

Consultant Information

To understand and comply with the Colorado Small Business Development Center’s (CSBDC) Code of Conduct, including the Articles of Professional Conduct, Conflict of Interest Policy and Confidentiality Agreement and any additional requirements of the host institution.

You may be assigned to work with a Certified Business Consultant (Mentor) to complete this module. Upon completion, the Center Director will ensure that you have accomplished the assigned tasks by signing the Training Checklist.

The Colorado Small Business Development Center Network (CSBDC), a governmental agency, is organized to provide education, consulting and referral services to owners of small businesses in Colorado. To this end, the CSBDC promotes high standards of conduct, Communicates those standards to the public, and Accredits Business Consultants of demonstrated competence who have agreed to uphold the CSBDC\’s standards as a continuing condition of individual certification. Those accredited become a \”Certified Business Consultant\” (CBC).

The Code of Conduct requires that CBCs conduct themselves with a self-discipline that is above the requirements of law. It assures the public that CBCs will maintain a high level of professionalism and ethics, and requires that CBCs accept an obligation to conduct themselves in a way that upholds the principles of the Code of Conduct.

The CSBDC enforces the Code of Conduct by receiving and investigating all complaints of violations and by taking disciplinary action, including revocation of certifications, against any individual if that person is found guilty of a code violation and more specificially, that section of CSBDC Code of Conduct titled Articles of Professional Behavior.

It is respect for the profession that motivates CBCs to maintain the highest possible progressional and ethical conduct.

  • A client: a business, individual or legal entity with which the SBDC has entered into a contract to provide any or all the SBDC\’s available services
  • Small Business Development Center services-include, but are not limited to, SBDC-related consulting, research of materials for a client, referrals to other agencies, provision of printed copies or digital media information, or other services that the Small Business Development Center may commonly and routinely perform for its Clients
  • Agency of the Small Business Development Center- any person currently employed by or on behalf of the SBDC for consulting, training or other services; may include graduate and student assistants, university faculty and staff, volunteers, and paid consultants. Agents may be paid by the host institution or other agency, but if their activity is to further SBDC objectives, they are considered agents of the SBDC. An intern being paid by a small business, directly or indirectly, as part of an internship program, is not considered an Agent.
  • Gift-real property or tangible or intangible property of material value, which is provided directly or in trust for the benefit of the recipient

The reliance of Clients on the advice given by CSBDC Certified Business Consultants imposes on the profession an obligation to maintain high standards of integrity and competence. Therefore, CBCs have basic responsibilities to:

  • Understanding client needs: CBCs will confer with new Clients in sufficient detail and gather enough facts to gain an understanding of the perceived problem, the objectives to be achieved, the scope of assistance needed and the possible benefits that may accrue to the Client
  • Maintain Impartiality: CBCs will ensure that advice given to Clients is based on impartial consideration of all pertinent facts
  • Provide Sound Recommendations: CBCs will ensure that recommendations and suggestions are realistic and practical, clearly understood by the Clients and capable of being implemented by the Client
  • Maintain the Quality of Information: CBCs will demonstrate a commitment to the quality of their advice, assistance and resulting products through sufficient planning, reviews and controls
  • Share Knowledge: CBCs recognize their responsibility to the profession to share with their colleagues the general body of knowledge and approaches they use in serving Clients
  • Actively Participate in Self-Development: CBCs must recognize their responsibility to the public interest and to their own professional development by contributing to the understanding of better ways to manage small businesses. This contribution responsibility may be through the development and dissemination of current information to peers as well as the public. It may also be through actively participating in educational opportunities that will enhance their professional skills.
  • Dress Appropriately: CBCs will dress in attire appropriate to the Client’s and individual Host Institution’s needs
  • Meet Commitments: CBCs will make every effort to meet all appointments and commitments for assistance made to Clients in a timely manner

Further, in recognition of the public interest as well as their obligation to the profession, CBCs must agree in writing to comply with the following Articles of Professional Behavior:

  • Professional Behavior: CBCs will maintain a wholly professional behavior and attitude toward those they serve, including other members of the CSBDC, Clients and the public at large. By following the Articles of Professional Behavior, they will strive to avoid improprieties and the appearance of improprieties in their professional behavior.
  • Private Engagement: CBCs will not solicit the private engagement of their services by a Client at any time during the term of the Client’s relationship with the CBC or the CSBDC. Furthermore, CBCs will not solicit or accept or give the appearance thereof, any Gift, loan, reward, favor, promise of future employment, compensation or other monetary remuneration for consulting-related services provided to a Client.
  • Client Confidentiality: CBCs will hold as strictly confidential the identity of a Client, as well as all information concerning the affairs of a Client that is gathered during the course of their professional engagement, unless the Client has agreed to the release of such information for public use.
  • Client and Other Information: CBCs will not provide any client with information, data, procedures, materials or techniques that previous Clients have developed but not released for public use, without first obtaining proper authorization from the previous Client. CBCs will not release information about any Client’s relationship with the SBDC, nor any information about the business or personal matters of any Client to any person or agency outside the CSBDC Network without permission of the Client. CBCs will not knowingly, without permission, use copyrighted material, proprietary data, procedures, materials, or techniques that others have developed but have not released for public use.
  • Conflict of Interest: CBCs will not engage in any activity in which regard for private interest leads to or has the potential to lead to a disregard for the needs or the rights of Clients. CBCs will not take personal, financial or other advantage of a material or information provided by a Client. CBCs will not invest monies, personal services or property in the business of a current Client. CBCs will not accept any reward, fees, commissions, Gifts or other favors from individuals or organizations. CBCs will not recommend the purchase of goods and/or services to a Client from a firm or individual in which the CBC or Agent has a material or financial interest. Further, CBCs may refer Clients to firms or individuals who provide professional services such as attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, bookkeepers, etc., only so long as the referral includes the name of three or more firms or individuals, and there is no private interest or the appearance of private interest between the CBC and any of the firms or individuals being referred.
  • Professional Standards: CBCs will continuously strive to advance and protect the professional standards of the CSBDC.
  • Supporting the CSBDC Code of Conduct: CBCs will support the CSBDC Code of Conduct by reporting all rule violations to the Center Director.
  • Outside Influences: CBCs will inform their Clients immediately of any special relationships, circumstances or interests that might influence, or give the appearance of influencing, their judgment or impair their objectivity. The CBC will offer to withdraw from the Client relationship and refer the Client to another CBC whenever this occurs.

The purpose of these procedures are to provide a mechanism for determining the merits of complaints against CBCs in a fair and impartial hearing and to protect the rights and interests of Clients and the public in their dealings with the CBCs of the CSBDC.

  • Any person may file a charge of misconduct against a CSBDC CBC. Misconduct is a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior. The charge may be formal or informal.
  • A formal change is a written and signed statement of the facts alleged, with substantiating evidence to the Center Director. The Center Director will transmit this information to the State Director who will forward it to the host institution and to the accused CBC. After investigating, the host institution will decide whether to dismiss the charge or to refer it to the State Director and Center Director for hearing and action according to the individual host institution’s policy.

Case 1

Read the following case and answer the questions below.

At 8:00 sharp on Monday morning, the Center’s phone begins to ring, signaling the beginning of another busy week at the SBDC. As you sip your coffee, you overhear the administrative assistant beginning to have a hard time accommodating the caller. It sounds as if the caller is refusing to listen to your administrative assistant’s explanations. Since there is not any other Business Consultants in yet who can take the ‘problem caller’ off the administrative assistant’s hands, you put your coffee down and signal to her to transfer the call to you.

The Client is already angry because the administrative assistant asked him what kind of help he needed instead of putting him through to you right away. He claims the president of the host institution is his best friend, so even though you doubt it, you decide to handle him with care.

His name is John Smith and he claims to have invented a device that will conserve the energy required to run various kinds of machinery and wants to meet with you right away. He knows he can sell it to the government and to Japan and Germany. When he went to see his banker she made him very angry because she told him the bank required a business plan. Now he wants to talk to you about this “business plan thing.” Because of his apparent tendency to anger easily, you set an appointment for tomorrow.

When Mr. Smith comes in for his appointment you ask for more information about his invention you find you are having a hard time understanding his ideas as he seems to be talking in circles and does not explain himself well. However, you soon become impressed with the product. While you are a generalist and do not often work with inventors, you feel that the product has real potential, seems it could be easily marketed, and can probably be patented.

You explain the need for a business plan. Unfortunately, when you begin to explain how to write the plan, it becomes apparent that Mr. Smith is losing interest. He says that he is too busy, he is not good at writing, and he does not explain things well on paper. He states that since you know so much about these things, it would be easier for everyone if you wrote it. You explain that as the business owner, it is very important that he be the author of the plan. He then gives you a wink and says that he is willing to pay quite well for you to write it for him.

Answer why the five examples below are violations of the Articles of Professional Behavior. What should or could the CBC have done differently to comply with the articles?

The CBC calls a Client who does home repair and asks for a quote on remodeling the kitchen in the CBC's home. The Client provides a very low quote and says that he is giving the CBC the low price as a way of showing his appreciation for the help he received from the CBC.
The CBC knows of a very good lawyer in town. A Client asks the CBC to give him the name of a lawyer who can help him set up a corporation. The CBC gives the Client the name of the one lawyer and no others.
The CBC provides Clients with a list of bookkeepers that will set up the record keeping system for their new business. As a way of showing her appreciation for the new customers she has gotten, one of the bookkeepers offers to do the CBC's personal taxes for free.
A Client wants to take the CBC out to lunch to discuss the progress of a loan application. The Client offers to pay for the lunch.
A CBC has a successful client and wants to write a newspaper article about the company. He doesn't know if he needs to get the Client's permission, and if so, how to go about getting it

After the conclusion of your SBDC presentation on business plans, you are approached by three of the seminar attendees. Two of them had simple questions to clarify some of the key points you made during the presentation. The third attendee, Joan Owner, wanted something more. She complained that she was so busy actually running her business that she just did not have the time or the talent to write her own plan. She then begins to plead with you to write it for her, and she is willing to pay you whatever it takes! Is it a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior for you to write Joan Owner\'s plan for a fee? Are there any circumstances under which a CBC can write a business plan for a Client for a fee? How do you best respond to Joan?
Define the role of the Agent of the Small Business Development Center as you understand it and list the various individuals who are considered to be Agents. Discuss any differences you perceive there to be between these individuals in terms of their obligations to comply with the Articles of Professional Behavior.
Francois French has been your client for a year. You have helped him to write his business plan and advised him on how to prepare for and submit a loan application to expand Francois\' French Restaurant. At 3:00 pm on Friday, Francois calls you to tell you the great news. He got the loan! He insists that you come over to dinner tonight to help him celebrate, and dinner is \"on the house.\" Is it a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior for you to accept the free meal? Are there any circumstances under which a CBC can accept a dinner as a reward for helping a client? How do you best respond to Francois?
When your new client, Judy Jumble, enters your office, you notice she has a large box with receipts and cancelled checks falling out as she walks. You are not surprised to find she needs help setting up her record keeping system. Your best friend, Nita Neat, has just started a bookkeeping business, and would love to have Judy as her client. Is it a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior for you to refer Judy Jumble to Nita Neat? If so, why?
At a Chamber of Commerce meeting, you meet Bob Byte. Bob has a computer consulting company and sells hardware and software. Bob is immediately interested in what you do at the SBDC. He offers you a deal that is too good to be true - if you refer SBDC clients to him who purchase from him, he will pay you a 10 percent referral fee. Is it a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior for you to refer SBDC clients to Bob and accept the referral fee? Are there any circumstances under which you can accept a fee from a supplier like Bob? How do you best respond to Bob?
Sally Sentinel is a newspaper reporter who writes all the small business articles in your local paper. Your center has been trying to get her to acknowledge the existence of the SBDC for months. Sally finally calls the office on the one day when you are the only CBC in, so you take her call. Sally explains she has recently heard some good things about the SBDC and is hoping that you can help her. She is writing an article about female business owners and would like the names of two female clients to interview so she can include information about them in her article. You immediately think of two successful female clients who would kill for the opportunity. Is it a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior for you to give Sally the names and phone numbers of these clients? Under what circumstances, if any, would you be able to give her some names? How do you best respond to Sally?
Kathy Clean is a client who has been struggling along for years, contracting with the local school board for janitorial services. She is always on the verge of making it, but never quite seems to reach true success. One day, she calls to tell you about the new contract she was awarded to provide services for the new county building that was just built. The only problem is that she needs $10,000 for working capital in order to adequately service the contract. There is no way to find financing for her as she declared bankruptcy four years ago, she has no collateral, and the company shows a loss on last year\'s financial statements. On the positive side, you know that Kathy is a very hard worker, she learns quickly, is very responsible and determined, and has taken all of the advice you have ever given her. You really like her as a person and sincerely want to see her succeed. You recently inherited some money from your uncle. Is it a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior for you to finance Kathy\'s business?
You have just completed a brief presentation of SBDC services at a Rotary Club meeting. At your table, you meet Don Tekkie, who is an engineer who started his own company researching and marketing new laser optical products. He has recently developed a new product that will result in a major breakthrough in the medical laser market. In order to introduce this new product, Don needs approximately $750,000-$1,000,000 in venture capital. Don is excited to first learn about the SBDC and asks you to review his business plan and advise him on how to find financing. He offers you stock in his company if you can arrange for the financing. Is it a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior for you to accept Don\'s offer? How do you best respond to Don?
Over the weekend, your best friend calls you at your home to refer Iris Returns to you. Iris wants to hire you to prepare her corporate tax return and you both agree on a fee. After you have completed the work, you meet with Iris to deliver the return and to collect your fee. During the casual conversation, you discover to your complete surprise that Iris had been an SBDC client two years ago, but had not been in for at least the previous year. You had never met Iris before and did not know of her previous relationship with the SBDC. Is there a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior in this situation? How should you respond? What actions should you take?
You are Larry Lawyer, Sr., SBDC Business Consultant. You take a phone call from Carrie Caller who wants the name of an attorney who can incorporate her business. You center\'s policy is to give the names of no less than three attorneys when answering such a caller. Carrie insists she only wants one name, but you are determined to follow policy. The names you give are Larry Lawyer, Jr. (your son), Alan Attorney and Errol Esquire. Is there a violation of the Articles of Professional Behavior?
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