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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Setting Up in Business - The Importance of Integrity

In the rush to start a business, keep it running and make money, there’s one important detail that can get lost in the process: integrity. Integrity isn’t something easily monetised, but when it’s implemented into a business’s DNA, there is plenty of money to save and the great potential to make more.

It’s easy to overlook the quality of integrity when running a business -- but incorporating it into all of your business dealings and decisions can advance your company to greater levels of success.

Integrity is synonymous with trust in the business world. After all, clients have to trust the people they do business with to keep them, so owning up to every responsibility is paramount.

The bottom line is consistency. A company needs to maintain what it says it does, and who it says it is.  There shouldn't be an external impression of the business that is dramatically different from the internal version. Especially in rough economic times, to be someone the buying public can trust is priceless. So while it might not seem immediately top on your list, your business can't afford to compromise its integrity in this competitive market. When people choose to lead with integrity they position themselves at the top of their industry. All the other details, like the product, or service, or whatever, come after integrity because people do business with people they know, like, and trust.

Here are a few thoughts on how to keep your integrity at the forefront of your professional life:

Remember that your reputation and relationships are all you really have. So nurture them and care about how you treat people from housekeeping to the most senior person. The proprietor is the best spokesperson for the brand as he/she has put his/her blood sweat and tears into their business and as the face of the brand, the reputation of the owner of the company is as and sometimes more important that the products or services offered.

Be likeable. You don’t have to be buddies, but you should be respected for the person you are – again it comes back to how you treat people. “If you set the example and treat your employees well, you minimise the conflicts involving HR. There’s no issues with sexual harassment, there isn’t stealing of materials, padding expense reports. When you feel you are cared about and you have a voice and an identity in the workplace, it’s easy to put integrity into practice.

Keep a positive online presence. With consumer driven content and social networking dominating the Internet, there’s nowhere to hide. So it’s imperative to keep that integrity through and through. The Internet seems to reveal those who aren’t trustworthy. It’s no longer the case of asking for a recommendation for a plumber from your neighbour. It’s pages upon pages of comments and reviews on various sites -- some more trust worthy than others -- that will really give insight into the experience the customers of the brand had.

Take the defensive out of the equation. You can feel the energy of a dysfunctional and therefore integrity-lacking company by just listening to how people at work communicate. “The tone with which HR and senior management communicate to their employees sets the stage. When integrity is in place and people respect one another details like being on time to work and with deadlines fall into place. It’s not about Big Brother watching over you, but it’s suddenly about you watching over yourself. The power is in the employee. That’s what you get to have control over – how you conduct yourself. It’s behaviour modification in the workplace. And a better workplace ends up being ripe with loyalists working together to grow the business.