You can't "do integrity"

The procrastinators motto is “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow.”

Granted, I can be incredibly productive at times. So much so that I’m generally considered a “high output” person. But when I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I only got as far as the first one!

What I most remember from the book was the its focus on the Character Ethic and, especially on integrity.

Now, I’m not sure that I’ve found a good dictionary definition of integrity, but I love Alan Simpson’s quote on the subject, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” Although the business world is frequently full of cutthroat competition and questionable behavior, I have to, in the end, agree that Simpson’s quote applies even to industry.

It is true that the business world can be a mean place. Our competitors are trying to “kill us.” I would love nothing better than to “crush them”. They’re trying to “take away our air supply.” We’re “gonna hit ’em where it hurts.” It’s easy to see how the urge to succeed results in violent language.

Despite the uncouth exterior, there is a certain nobility in business, too. There are simply some things you don’t do. Some, like bribery and “side letters” you don’t do because they might land you in jail. Others you don’t do because, at the end of they day, they end up hurting you. Consider:

  • Lying
  • Overcharging
  • Failing to provide support
  • Although companies are frequently guilty of these, I think that most CEOs will tell you that these are, at the end of the day, tactics that end up hurting them. You can go out of your way to sell your product, but if can’t do what it claims, the customer will ultimately figure it out and be very unhappy with you. You want to get as much money as you can from a customer but no more! If a customer feels that they overpaid and if they learn that others inexplicably paid less, it will be very difficult to sell to them again.

    Ultimately, it is good business to act with integrity. One of my company’s greatest assets is that we’re “nicer” than our competition. Our competition will try to push unnecessary products or will flat out lie about us to try to win deals. More often than not, this behavior has actually helped us. Nobody wants to buy from someone they don’t respect.

    It pays to be be kind.