It’s not easy running a business today. From the ever-growing lists of regulations to increased competition finding new customers and keeping your best employees happy, it’s amazing that business owners get any sleep. With a more competitive marketplace comes the increased temptation to abandon one’s high principles and take the well-traveled low road. Whether it means cheating, stealing, lying or simply cutting corners, business owners see others doing it (and sometimes getting away with it), which leads them to ask, “Why shouldn’t I do whatever it takes to get ahead? Everyone else is doing it.”
1. Partners and vendors will trust you. Trust is one of the most precious commodities in business today. It takes years to build up and can be completely lost with one bad decision. You may win business because others believe they can trust you, but you will most certainly lose business, or not win any future business, if there is even a hint of mistrust. Companies, especially large public companies, cannot afford the exposure of dealing with anyone who is unethical. Be trustworthy.
2. Employees will work for you. Leaders take the high road; bosses take the low road. If you want employees who are proud to work for your company and will give you 110 percent effort every day, then lead by example. Share your principles with them so they may understand the strength of your character and the discipline it takes to remain on the high road when they see so many other people choosing an alternative path to success.
3. Customers will buy from you. People buy from people they trust. This is especially true in service industries such as lawyers, doctors, mechanics and plumbers. I’ve owned cars for more than 25 years and haven’t had much success in finding mechanics that I trust. Most of them I have come across want to turn a $35 oil change into their mortgage payment for the next month.
However, recently, after reading some nice reviews online, I found Dave Borzilleri from Lincoln Ave Auto Repair in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. I decided to bring our car there. I’m happy to say that the reviews (all five stars) were accurate. Dave is simply one of the nicest, most trustworthy professionals I've met in a service business. I've since brought my other cars to him and he treats every one as if it was his own. I hope other business owners take his lead, and see it really does pay to be honest.
4. Competitors will respect you. A few years ago, a friend of mine received confidential documents from a disgruntled ex-employee of his largest competitor. Without looking at the documents (only reading the attached letter), my friend called the CEO of the company and told him he would be sending the documents back to him. The CEO commended my friend for what he called the most respected act of professionalism he had seen in almost 40 years in business. You can play hard, be competitive and still take the high road.
5. You'll sleep better. Over the years, I've known a number of entrepreneurs who spent most of their careers living in a web of lies on the low road. They didn’t intend to end up on the low road, but one lie led to another and everything multiplied. Eventually, it became easier to pretend to be someone they weren't ... that is, until they got caught. Most of them lost everything and a few went to jail. The one common thread among the corrupt entrepreneurs was that they were all thankful it was finally over. No one on the high road has ever wished for their business or career to be over.
It can be challenging to stick to your principles when you see others succeed using unethical measures. Their victories are fleeting. Be a long-term thinker when it comes to business and life. Lay a proper foundation for the type of leader you want to become and stay focused when others proposition you with get-rich-quick schemes and opportunities. In the long run, you will sleep better, live better and get more out of life.
Read more articles on leadership.