Honesty pays. It’s as simple as that. Unless you’re in business to make a one-shot killing and then plan to take the money and run, honesty will always be the best policy.
Business owners who fail to play straight — whether it is with their employees, their suppliers or their customers — eventually undermine the value of the business by driving away customers and honest employees. If you short shipments, pad bills, accept inferior products or services, lie to vendors or to employees, your business may survive, but it will never reach its fullest potential.
That’s because what goes around comes around. If you treat people poorly, they will eventually do one of two things: They will either walk away from you and refuse to do business with you; or they will wait for the opportunity to pay you back. On the other hand, if you treat people honestly and fairly, they will reward you with loyalty and commitment. No, you may not get rich overnight; however, you will build your business on a solid foundation.
The key ingredient is trust. This is especially true, whether you are dealing with employees or customers. Trust is the miracle ingredient in organizational life — a lubricant that reduces friction, a bonding agent that glues together disparate parts, a catalyst that facilitates action. No substitute — neither threat nor promise — will do the job as well.
The same applies to customers and suppliers. People do business with people with whom they feel comfortable. If they believe that they must be ever vigilant to prevent you from picking their pockets at the first opportunity, they will look to do the same to you.
The cream rises to the top. If you deal honestly with all people — and insist that your employees do the same — you will eventually end up surrounded by a network of reliable, honest people who trust you… and upon whom you can rely.
To promote ethical practices in your business, keep the following in mind:
- Ethics start at the top. You set the standard and tone of how your business is run. If employees see you cheating customers or cutting corners, they will do the same. But if they see you doing what is right, even when it may cost you a few dollars, they will not only behave the same way, but they will also trust you and give you their loyalty.
- Put the best interests of your customers first. We’re all in business to make money. However, the truly successful business owner understands that, if you take care of your customers, your own needs will be taken care of accordingly.
- Develop a code of ethics for your business. Keep it short and concept-oriented, so it fits on a three-by-five card. Hand out copies to all employees and post it on the bulletin boards and in the restrooms. Then stand behind it.
Footnote: Don’t confuse tough-minded business practices with unethical behavior. Being fair and honest does not mean giving away the store. Far from it. No business can survive unless its owner seeks on a daily basis to get the best value for each and every decision made and dollar spent. But it does means doing so honestly and in a palms-up manner.
Work hard. Make money. Have fun. John R. Ingrisano, The Freestyle Entrepreneur