Lessons in Integrity

As a business owner, and also a Dad, there is something I find myself saying and thinking often. In business, success has followed me… along with failure. You see, one thing is for sure: there are many ups and downs when it comes to leadership, entrepreneurship, fatherhood, and even friendship. There is, however, one true constant in the sea of success. Do you know what the lighthouse is? It’s integrity. Integrity means following your moral or ethical compass, and doing the right thing in all situations, even if no one is nearby. Having integrity means you wouldn’t do anything that dishonors you or pulls you away from your true self.

Integrity takes a LONG time to build up and only a moment to break down.

I’ve told my boys this, and I will say it repeatedly: Integrity takes a LONG time to build up and only a moment to break down. So even in moments of weakness, do not give up your integrity.

I’m guessing you might be a little surprised I’m talking about integrity this week. There is so much going on in the world with COVID-19, politics, and injustice. And here I am talking about something “old school,” but I actually feel like this is the PERFECT time to be dusting off the old shelf of integrity. You see, right now, people are desperate. Businesses are making promises they can’t keep, salespeople are lying through their teeth just to make a sale, small business is just fighting to stay afloat, never mind meeting new or confusing standards that are being set. Entrepreneurs are finding 2020 to be one of the hardest times to start a business – so what do they do? They stretch the truth with projections, valuations, earnings, you name it. Big companies are merging with other companies and are trying to look worth their weight in gold to get top dollar. You get the picture, right? The tiny little moments of truth-stretching and adding some hair on the situation to help beef up the opportunity.

At the moment, you might be justifying the white lie, the embellishments, etc., but in reality, if you genuinely possess integrity, there simply isn’t a good enough story, you can tell yourself to make the dishonesty right or justified.

The short cut is the long way in disguise. – Gregg Sturz

My business partner, Gregg Sturz, has a great saying, “The short cut is the long way in disguise.”

Often, cutting corners here or there to save time, energy, money, etc. seems like the thing to do. But take it from my partner: You aren’t saving anything. You’re losing. The instant gratification of a cut corner will soon morph into guilt, require explanation you can’t give, be a total time sucker, or even worse, you might have to make up lies about the lies. The biggest thing you lose is your integrity. It dissolves slowly. One minute it is there, the next you’re sinking in quicksand. I can think of a time when I was so focused on providing for my family and have material success. I kept telling myself that this was a shortcut because soon, I’d have more money and success that I knew what to do with, and then I could do all the husband/father things LATER. I thought being a great provider was a replacement for time. The very people I was working so hard for were deprived of the most important gifts I could give: my time. Sure, maybe I was taking a shortcut and making all the money we would need for decades to come, but I lost out. Kids spell love T-I-M-E. And now I wish I could go back in t-i-m-e.

The result I was after came with a serious price tag. And so, the very thing I tried teaching my boys was what I ripped from our family: Integrity. I wanted to be trusted as a man of integrity: as a Dad, as a husband, friend, and business partner. Instead, I made a substantial profit in the bank and withdrew everything I earned over time with my family. It’s taking me a lot of years to build up my integrity again. Like I said, a lifetime to build, and just a moment to throw away.

My son, Alex
My son, Jake

Okay, so now that I painted the gloomy picture, let me also say that I’m proud to have learned this lesson and share it with you! You don’t have to make the same mistakes I did, and if you have, well, you CAN redeem yourself.

What should you do??

The key is to have integrity and stick by it. Start right at this moment, and don’t let anything compromise it moving forward. It will start with one person who has faith and trust in you, and as they share who you are and your integrity with others, soon it will be like wildfire. You can’t get discouraged if people take time to trust you, especially if you were the one stretching the truth or over promising and underdelivering. And this is doubly true if you are looking to rebuild trust in your circle of friends or family. Let your actions speak for you. Ask for extra responsibility, then follow through with the integrity you know is right.

When others know doing business with you, you will not compromise their own integrity, you are well on your way to having a golden reputation. The sky is the limit once you have the trust of others in your corner! If you are just starting out as an entrepreneur, learn from my mistakes and start off on the right foot! The opportunities that will arise is far more significant than the instant gratification right at your nose.

Leaders know that honesty and integrity are the foundations of leadership. Brian Tracy

Author and speaker Brian Tracy once said: “Whenever I hold a strategic planning session, the first value that all the executives agree on is integrity. Leaders know that honesty and integrity are the foundations of leadership. Leaders stand up for what they believe in.”

This is more true than I could ever scream on this page. The lack of integrity will eventually bite you in the butt, smack you on your face, or punch you in the gut. Some of it will take longer than others, and some will hurt more than others. But it will always be there. Ready to haunt your business and relationships. One way or another, one day or another.

Okay, you’re ready to have integrity, build trustworthy relationships, and be a person your family looks up to and aspires to be like. What do you do and how do you get started?

The answer is so simple, you might be surprised you missed it…

A Simple Answer

Only do business with people you can trust and who have integrity. Better yet, don’t even associate with those that you aren’t sure of their integrity. If you aren’t aligned, move on. It will be easy to justify a situation for them, especially if you like them personally and are already doing business with them. You just need to avoid them altogether or cut the cord now.

I’ll take things a step further. If you don’t know the person you are doing business with well, but make a small decision that seems harmless but isn’t honest, let the red flag fly and get out of dodge. But why you ask? Because if they are willing to be dishonest, cut a corner, or be dismissive with a single trivial aspect of the business, there’s no telling what they will do when push comes to shove, and there’s a big thing to deal with. How can you trust them with complex business situations if the simple are not treated with the utmost integrity? Make sense?

People are always watching you. And they WILL notice who you allow in your circle. You might think it no big deal to lay in bed with a snake as long as you know where his head is, but soon you’ll be sorry. You see, people will judge you for who you associate with. It might not be fair, but it is just the way it is. Guilty by association and beyond.

If you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity, surround yourself with integrity.

Inevitably you become like the people we surround ourselves with every day. Choose these people wisely! If you are surrounded by dishonest people ready to cut a corner or tell a white lie, soon you’ll find yourself adopting their behavior as your own. If you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity, surround yourself with integrity. Adopt the practice of associating with people of integrity.

This is a topic I hope my own sons will read and learn from too. Maybe they will see why I am hard on them with who they choose as friends, or what music they listen to or why I push them to follow through. I want them to always have integrity with everything they do. Sure, honesty in business is vital, but integrity, in general, is a value worth putting in the effort for. I know I’ve made mistakes, but my heart was really in the right place. In a way, you could say the reasons for my integrity were right, and perhaps that is why it didn’t take a full lifetime to rebuild.

Regardless, I share this all with you because I want you to know when you do business with me and my companies, you can expect integrity at every level. You can trust me to be honest, kind, ethical, and moral, and also value time. I will value my time and your time.

Speaking of time, thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. I hope you find it valuable and exciting, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback!

My challenge this week is simple: Put the grit in inte-grit-y! You have what it takes.

Success is a choice. Start now!

Original article by Aaron Bouren

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