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integrity

Building your integrity

Would you buy anything from a business you didn’t trust? Or a business that you’ve heard bad things about?

Most people wouldn’t so it is crucial to ensure your business is trustworthy and maintains that image. Honesty, integrity, straightforward, transparent and respect are all parts of that trustworthy image.

Here are some key activities to show your integrity and trustworthiness, gained from watching people do the opposite as well as showing integrity even when it’s hard.

  • pay your suppliers on time – or discuss it openly if you can’t do it as timely as expected. What’s more, do not hire new suppliers if you are in debt and know you can’t afford to pay them – doing so is one of the fastest ways of destroying your credibility and risking legal actions
  • take responsibility for yourself, your business and even your team. Blaming others and looking for excuses doesn’t put you in a good light and can worry protective clients and suppliers hat they will be blamed for future issues – not good for building trust!
  • be honest – don’t make grand claims on your website, own up to errors and tell clients what they need to hear (rather than what brings you a quick return)
  • be open – share bits of information about the people behind the business. That doesn’t mean tell us all your son’s achievements or what you had for breakfast, nor give out private details, but let people know the human voice of a business as well. For example what impression do I give when I occasionally mention I am a cub leader?
  • be transparent – put your pricing and/or policies in easy-to-understand terms in an accessible form (I hate websites that don’t show delivery prices until you finish the shopping, for instance) and let appropriate negative comments remain (although I suggest answering them as well!)
  • be professional and pay attention to small details so people can trust you will do a good job for them
  • be consistent so people learn that you always do things the same way and that they can rely on that
  • take care with where and how you promote your business – and ask for help. Being open about needing help is one thing but publicly asking for help on many aspects of your business  gives little reason to think you can provide the promised services. As my role is to prepare content, I can post online that I need help with preparing some graphics but a coach publicly asking for funding to set up anything is dubious
What other ways have businesses earned your trust?

Unethical or ignorant?

Is ignorance an excuse for giving the wrong advice? Or is it as unethical as someone deliberately misleading a client for their own gain?

I have previously written about the integrity of businesses misleading clients, but how different it is if the supplier gives bad advice from ignorance?

If you are paying someone as an expert, you have a right to expect their information to be reliable and trustworthy. Let’s face it, if you had the information and knowledge yourself, you wouldn’t have asked them in the first place!

Some supppliers will give advice based on out-of-date information (“it worked in 1995 so why should we change it?”), personal opinion (“I don’t like brown therefore it is a bad colour to use in every situation” reasoning) or no knowledge at all. And they mean absolutely no harm by it and probably think they are helping you.

Personally, I don’t think that is professional or ethical – if you are charging people money for your knowledge, then you should have that knowledge to start with! And you should keep that knowledge up to date.

Have you come across this sort of ignorance in busienss? Did you consider it unethical for them to charge for knowledge they didn’t actually  have?

Qualify your statements

In business, there is a hope that in some way we can be the biggest and best so that clients will come flocking to us. And some businesses give into that temptation and make claims that are not exactly accurate, or even true.

Too much hype just makes people switch off, and being caught out in a lie or false claim does not build am image of professionalism or integrity. In other, these behaviours do not build a strong business foundation.

So before you make any claims, be sure they are accurate and that you have checked them out.

Be very careful using terms such as ‘best’, ‘most popular’, ‘biggest seller’ and so on unless you have statistics and research to back up your claims.

If you say you are the first – don’t just check that no one else has done it before, check that your wording makes it clear what no one else has done before. For instance, saying I run the first business directory in Australia is not quite the same as saying I run the first online business directory in Australia. Likewise, there may be two interpretations of some words – online support could mean forums, a mail group, an information site, chat room discussions or some combination of the lot. So you may be the first online forum but not the first online support group.

And remember, it isn’t just to maintain your image and integrity – if you stray too far from the facts, you may face legal issues, too.