Two good ole boys just having a laugh. Drinking whiskey, straight up of course. You just finished a thick steak topped with blueberry glaze, a little fancy but delicious. Full belly, solid conversation, and some good fun. You lean back in your chair, sipping away on your drink, when decision time comes. “Let’s hit up Rocco’s!” exclaims your dinner partner.
Rocco’s – the local ‘dancer’ bar (if you are picking up what I’m puttin’ down). It’s not really your scene for multiple reasons, but especially because your current companion is a client. And you decided long ago that your customer interactions would be ‘above reproach.’
Sometimes integrity puts you in downright uncomfortable scenarios.
I knew a particular business owner who believed in being above reproach with his business dealings. He believed that if you hired people for their character you could teach them anything else; experience wasn’t everything. And good character would naturally breed integrity. But somehow there was this one sales guy who worked for him…. The kind that gives off the slimy used-car-salesman feel. [No offense to used car salesman.] Admittedly, he was a great salesperson in that he could bring in the new clients and big revenue. He was also the kind of person to hit on younger employees and you wouldn’t trust with a dime. Sales guy had been friends with the owner of the company since they were in high school – so I understand why he got hired. And sales guy did bring in lots of profit, he even got promoted to Vice President.
If you took a look at his expense report, you’d see a consistent amount of late-night activities. Some restaurants, some bars, and some really late night establishments. If you are a good salesman, do you really need to ‘bond’ with the client over the course of 6 hours? At what point is actual business conversation coming into play, and at what point is it just two people enjoying themselves on the company’s dime? If you are a start-up owner, my guess is this extra spending would make your blood boil. It’s your cash flying up on stage or out the window.
In the end, VP of slimy sales left the company…unwillingly. Ah, good ole integrity. The thing that everyone claims they want to have, but do they really? Having integrity forces you to make the really hard decisions – like the one where you have to fire one of your oldest friends.
Honesty, truth, honor. Veracity, Reliability, uprightness. All synonyms for integrity – this is the kind of business owner you want to be.
Months later, the same business owner met with a large, well-known company to try to get business. It was the kind of deal that would have launched an entire new revenue stream, right into the government sector. They weren’t given the job, but were given the reason for not getting it – the former salesman. If they had employed that type of slimy character, the potential client believed it showed what kind of company it was. That’s a painful lesson to learn – the effect of a lack of integrity. Even though the sales guy was eventually fired, it didn’t matter.
I read somewhere “integrity is the accumulation of all the little decisions you make each day.” What a great reminder. It is not a character trait, but rather constant choices. Decide what your integrity looks like. And at the crossroads of every choice you have to make, be above reproach.