There are many ways to run a company, as well as develop its direction and strategy. Some say the best way to start a business is to find a need and fill it. This is true, especially if you have the right solution to the right problem. You must create a product or develop a service, acquire a list of the people who need it, and market to them. The path to success may vary, but there are some facets of business that function as basic building blocks on which every business should lay its foundation—strong company values. The stronger your values, the better your company will do.
This is true, no matter how difficult it is to believe sometimes. We have all heard stories of corrupt businesses and company leaders who cheat to make their profits soar (think Enron). In the end, these cheaters go down. It doesn’t matter if the executives are friends with presidents or prime ministers; dishonesty will sink a company. Meanwhile, a well-run company with sound values will succeed, just like cream always rises to the top.
Today, more than any other time in our history, business people and politicians are playing games with values by trying to redefine the truth, twist it to their advantage, and warp reality. It is important that we, as company leaders, refuse to follow suit. We need to stand tall in all of our business transactions, including the way in which we treat our customers, vendors, partners, and each other. When everything is over, you should be able to say that you’ve always run an honest business.
As a reminder, at a time when people are trying to rewrite everything from the Ten Commandments to the U.S. Constitution, it is more important than ever for us to think about our company values and what we stand for. Below are four basic values every business leader should follow. How well is your company upholding the following values?
1. Integrity: Integrity is the most important value a company can have. To be known for always doing the right thing, regardless of whether or not it is advantageous to your company, is commendable. Sometime integrity hurts, but in the end, it will pay off.
2. Honesty: Just because some of our country’s leaders no longer think that honesty is the best policy does not give us a pass when it comes to telling the truth. Never tell a lie to your customers, vendors, partners, associates, or yourself. If your product is going to be late, admit it and give them enough time to do something about it. Your customers will respect you even more by being honest.
3. Generosity: Always be generous, especially when it comes to the people you are in business with. Make sure that each decision you make is fair to everyone involved. While we seem to live in a new world order based on a “I’ve got mine, the heck with the rest of you” mentality, that is not the way to lead your life or do business. When a customer comes to you with a problem, before you waste time trying to point blame, just solve the problem as quickly as possible and figure out how to prevent it in the future. There will be times when it isn’t your fault, but if you’ve developed a relationship with your customers based on generosity, you will get through it and stay together as vendor-customer partners for life.
4. Grace: You’ve heard the expression “grace under pressure” and you know that this applies to the coolest person in the room. Grace is hard to define, but the best definition of a person with grace is one who is controlled under pressure while everyone else is freaking out. As a company leader, always be cool, calm, and collected no matter what is going on. It is a sign of true leadership.
Overall, always be aware of your values. Follow them and you will not only have a profitable, honest business, but a life well lived.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group. To contact him, or to read past columns, click here.