If you want to have a long-term, successful company, then business integrity should be at the very top of your research topics. Even if it’s sometimes difficult to explain or measure, integrity in business definitely makes an impression when you see it. It’s clear if a company doesn’t have it.
What is business integrity?
If you look up the word integrity in the dictionary, you will likely get a similar explanation to this one: “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” It can also be defined as a “state of being undivided and whole.” This idea comes from the word “integer,” which stands for untouched, honest, and pure in Latin. To put it in other words, when you do something with integrity, you do it all the time – no matter where you are or whom you are with.
When we talk about businesses, integrity is all about doing what you said that you would do, even when there’s no one to see you. It’s also about being accountable and admitting your mistakes.
What’s Integrity in Business?
When you own a company, always acting with integrity can be a difficult mission. That’s because life throws us in all kinds of situations, and the bigger a business becomes, the harder it is to be sure that each employee acts with integrity in the workplace at all times. How can we build business integrity so it can be seen in everyday situations? There are several practices you can implement:
- Make honesty a company value: As a company, you have to ensure that all your employees and you (as the owner) have an obligation to always be honest with your clients and to own up to your mistakes when you make them.
- Meet your commitments: When you make promises, your customers will unintentionally have expectations. That means that your services or products should work just as you’ve promoted them and add value to the lives of your customers. You have to understand those “unsaid” commitments and try to honor them at all times.
- Give everyone the same treatment: If you find yourself paying more attention to the more prominent clients compared to smaller ones, then it’s in those moments that you should remember business integrity. It’s all about bringing the same attitude and treatment at all times, regardless of the situation.
- Be respectful: You should always do your best to promote being courteous and considerate to people. Understand that everyone comes from different backgrounds, has different experiences, and then aim to treat everyone with respect.
Why Does Integrity in Business Matter?
While business integrity can sound like a fun, catchy, corporate phrase, it’s much more than that. There are many companies that promote integrity and promise that they have it but fail to back it up with actions.
In reality, having business integrity benefits your business because when you act the right way, you will be surprised by how many terrific things can happen.
Having a good reputation is vital for any business. It’s what makes all your customers, business partners, suppliers, and investors trust your company.
When you continuously practice integrity, you will see how it helps build your reputation. On the other hand, if you fail to do so, it will quickly start to “taint your good name.”
When people work in a company with integrity, it makes them feel better, as opposed to feeling like they’re contributing to a business that’s being unfair. Plenty of research shows that employees who see their managers as people with high integrity also enjoyed their work more and had better job engagement.
Happier employees are usually more productive as well. Having business integrity makes it more likely for your team to produce high-quality services and products. This is also particularly effective when you have a company that’s focused on customer experience.
Suppose you don’t have aligned business principles. In that case, it gets much harder to work out how to approach potential clients, business partners, and suppliers, as you and your employees constantly have to change “roles” and present yourself and the company with a different face in every meeting. However, if you have an aligned company ethic, then everyone will know the right way to present themselves and will have more time and energy to focus on critical operational matters.
Customers feel a lot more comfortable supporting companies that do the right thing, especially nowadays when we as a society have become a lot more focused on ethics. That’s why having integrity may inspire brand loyalty and awareness, which in turn will lead to more sales and higher revenues.
Tips on Building Business Integrity
Most business owners want to promote integrity; however, they struggle to find ways to do so. Let’s now explore some integrity implementation tips that you can follow:
1.Define Your Moral Principles
Most companies have a mission statement that announces their message and main moral principle to the world. It’s the first insight into a business’s values, and it allows customers to decide whether they want to support the company or not. As a business owner, you have to carefully consider what message you want to send to the world about the moral compass of your venture.
In order to do that, you should be able to clearly define your own moral principles and work off them to decide what the mission statement of your company will be.
2.Lead by Example
Integrity in leadership is crucial. The best way to promote a specific behavior in your workplace is by promoting it with your own example (as the owner). Your own moral standards have to be seen in all the actions that you take so that they can encourage everyone around you to do the same. It can be something as simple as greeting everyone when they first come in and demonstrating a genuine interest in their ideas.
You also have to be able to admit your mistakes. It shows that you’re able to be honest, even if it might hurt your reputation, and if you then take action to correct what you did wrong, it further encourages accountability in your employees.
3.Practice Open Communication
If you promote open communication, you will quickly see how many business integrity principles will soon get implemented without any effort from your end. If you, as the leader, can be open and lead honest discussions, that will encourage everyone else to follow the same example. Additionally, if you’re practicing open communication with your customers, it will increase trust and accountability between the two parties. Being honest every time you interact with customers will make them feel confident in you as a leader and, in turn, in your company.
4.Think of the Customer as a Friend
Consider how you would do business with your friends. You wouldn’t sell them anything of poor quality or overcharge them for an item. That’s the same way you should approach all your customers: value their money and their time and try to provide them with the highest quality products/services possible. If something goes wrong, own up to it and do your best to fix it. Having this kind of approach towards your business may not be super beneficial when you’re just starting out, but it will pay off in the long run.
5.Make It Personal
Think about the things that excite you when you’re thinking about your company. For example, don’t do community service just because you have to. Instead, consider an issue that’s close to your heart and look for ways to support organizations related to it. That way, you will be inspired to do more and take initiative.
It’s a good idea to talk about new initiatives with your management teams. That will enable them to propose new causes that you can support; even something as simple as a company-wide recycling program can make a difference if you’re really passionate about it.
Seven Principles of Business Integrity
After talking about why integrity in business is important and the different ways to implement it in your company, let’s now discuss the seven main principles of business integrity that you should always keep in the back of your mind.
- Trust: Being a company that inspires trust is crucial, as it becomes the foundation of your relationships with customers, clients, business partners, and providers. When people know that they can rely on you and what you make/do, they’re much more likely to continue supporting you and your brand.
- Quality: Having high standards across the board shows that your business is committed to doing its best and delivering the value it promises. Nowadays, being a company that can stand behind its products and works to make them as good as possible is very rare, making customers appreciate such businesses even more than before.
- Follow-through: Building trust is all about meeting your commitments and following through on your promises. That means that you’re able to be honest about potential issues that might affect the end result. While that sometimes will disrupt your relationships with clients and business partners, you can still manage to salvage these relationships by being upfront.
- Corporate Citizenship: Nowadays, having good corporate citizenship is appreciated by everyone: employees, business partners, and customers. It’s crucial that you show that your company is committed to various Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives that you indeed hold close to your heart.
- Value: The goal of all businesses is to create value in one form or another. However, if you’re a more ethical company, value creation may mean more than just generating profits. It might also be an obligation to follow a moral code and to always “do the right thing” when it comes to your customers and partners.
- Willingness to Change: Businesses only commit to change if they’re willing to try and get better. However, in order for that to happen, you need leaders at the helm who are able to notice the need for change and listen to outside opinions on what might need to be done differently. Getting frequent feedback from your employees can be crucial for your company’s future success.
- Respect: Treat everyone with respect, regardless of their age, gender, social status, race, or position. That’s a fundamental principle that should be applied throughout every organization as it is the key to building long-lasting relationships with all of your stakeholders and with all human beings in general.
Having integrity is one of those qualities that goes a long way. Being open, honest, and admitting your mistakes makes other people trust you and your intentions so that even if you really did something wrong, it can be made right by simply owning up to it.
The same principle applies to businesses. There’s always a chance that an employee will make a mistake, e.g., messing up a customer’s order or sending out a damaged product. Even though that might initially frustrate the client, if the company is able to admit the error and do its best to fix it, that will likely turn things around and inspire brand loyalty.
Along with that, being open about what your company’s mission is and what you hope to promote with it will also increase the trust people have in it and hopefully encourage them to support it even more. Because of their willingness to be transparent and vulnerable with their customer base, well-known brands such as Nike and Apple have managed to get a cult-like following in recent years. If you haven’t really thought about business integrity until now, it’s vital that you start to. It’s one of the best things you can build in your company that will almost certainly guarantee its future success.