Ethics over profits: Desert Tech owner to speak about balance in business

Sometimes doing the right thing is not the same thing as doing the most profitable thing for your company. Those kinds of ethical quandaries can be even more difficult for smaller companies or startups hoping to get a foothold in an industry.

For Utah-based firearms manufacturer Desert Tech, the opportunity was the kind of deal that could have solidified the future of the company, but owner and founder Nicholas Young couldn’t bear the thought of some of his guns being used to shoot at American soldiers.

That is what led to Young’s decision in December of 2013 to withdraw Desert Tech from the running for a sales contract with the country of Pakistan—a contract potentially worth up to $10 million in sales. Desert Tech was one of two finalists, and while Pakistan is an American ally and the sale would have been perfectly legal, Young and his employees felt uneasy enough about the unpredictable affairs in Pakistan rescind their interest.

Desert Tech’s sales manager Mike Davis told the Deseret News that “at the end of the day, we feel our ethics are worth more than the bottom line.”

On March 28, Young will visit the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah for a discussion hosted by the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative and the Student Center for the Public Trust’s Ethics Club.

“All people, students included, need to understand that a commitment to doing the right thing is not always immediately—or, sometimes, not at all—financially profitable,” said Melissa Lewis, assistant professor of accounting and faculty advisor to the Ethics Club. “Often, doing what is right requires sacrificing financial gain, and Nick Young’s presentation offers a perspective on how he came to the conclusion that withdrawing from a legal contract that he viewed as unethical was the right thing to do. Students and the public will benefit from participating in this discussion.”

The public is welcome to join University of Utah students at Nicholas Young’s discussion on Friday, March 28, at 12:15 p.m. in the auditorium of the Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building on the University of Utah campus.

About the Student Center for the Public Trust Ethics Club

The SCPT Ethics Club at the University of Utah provides an interactive environment where ethical behaviors and ideas can flourish, while creating opportunities for students to network with the business community and develop professional leadership skills. Membership is offered across all academic disciplines and provides a unique forum for business ethics education. For more information, visit

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