Start Your Business With Integrity
The single most important standard all new businesses must embrace is a culture of integrity. In the age of Enron and Madoff, the American consumer has grown weary of deception and is on higher alert for dishonesty. Perceived misconduct by a business will result in lost customers and a negative reputation that will be difficult to shake. With the proliferation of scammers, con artists, and outright criminals roaming the cubicles of American industry, it is time for business owners to get back to basics. The core of these basics is to develop a culture of integrity that allows your potential customers to rely on your word and commitments, and develop a mutual trust that will allow your business to thrive.
Developing good, mutually beneficial relationships is critical to the success of your business. Dealing with customers, suppliers, and even competitors will be a standard part of your workday, and creating relationships based on trust and mutual respect will matter, especially when you have issues that affect any of those stakeholders.
Throughout the life of your business, mistakes will be made. Some will be completely your fault (or your employees’, which still fall back on you), some will be partly your fault, and some will be not at all your fault, but will still affect your business. Playing blame-opoly is not necessary, but understanding how the error came about is. That way, you can rework procedures or set standards that reduce the chance of that mistake happening again. People tend to be relatively forgiving, as long as you are up front about the situation and offer solutions to whatever went wrong.
When you know something has gone wrong, let the people that are affected know before they find out another way, and be prepared with either an immediate solution or options for them to choose from. Whatever you do, don’t disappear or deny errors. Take responsibility, and any short-term loss you might suffer will be recovered when you retain those customers and suppliers over the long term.
As the leader in your business, the character you display acts as a guidepost for your employees, as well. Develop a culture that encourages honesty, and you will have far fewer employee issues, better relationships with your customers, and more latitude with your suppliers. If you receive any reports of your employees behaving in an unethical or dishonest manner, make it clear to them that integrity is a requirement, not a suggestion. When you come across suppliers or other business associates who are dishonest, find someone else to do business with, if possible. Small indiscretions that go unacknowledged tend to grow into perpetual mistreatment, especially with individuals who believe that lying to cover an error is acceptable.
As you are developing your business idea into a small business and eventually a thriving company, keep in mind the fallout that comes with a culture of deception — everyone in contact with the situation ends up injured. Be alert to the culture you and your employees develop, and ensure that all aspects of your business are handled with integrity.
The rule: Honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only policy!
About the Author – K. MacKillop, a serial entrepreneur with a J.D. from Duke University, is co-founder of LaunchX LLC and authors a small business startup blog. The LaunchX System, a five Unit series of step-by-step business startup procedures, key business software, and marketing reference books, is designed to assist entrepreneurs in developing a business idea into a successful company. Visit LaunchX.com and get on the road to business startup today.