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Integrity - use of values or principles to guide action in the situation at hand.

Below are links and discussion related to the values of freedom, hope, trust, privacy, responsibility, safety, and well-being, within business and government situations arising in the areas of security, privacy, technology, corporate governance, sustainability, and CSR.

The battle for business integrity, 22.4.04

bCentral - Business is at war

Here are some strategies for the small business owner to:

  • identify and purge corrupt business practices
  • rebuild people's faith in the integrity that the vast majority of businesses abide by every day

  • Acknowledge that the public needs a shot of trust. Step one in rekindling the public's faith in business is recognizing that it's needed. It would be hard to imagine a time — short of, perhaps, the decimation from the Great Depression — where people's opinion of business was any darker. "Every survey I've seen lately shows that the public is actively looking for that kind of trust and confidence," says Tom Egelhoff, owner of Small Town Marketing.com. "That, and when people are asked what they value most about business, they always put trust ahead of everything else."
  • Ask for opinions. Rather than waiting for problems to appear, show your eagerness to engender confidence. If you're in retail, work up a survey and encourage customers to point out problems and suggestions. If yours is a more service-oriented operation, make face-to-face feedback a priority: "Take your 10 best customers out to dinner and ask them if they have any concerns at all," says Egelhoff. "If you build that sort of trust and confidence upfront, it's much easier to put fires out later. Try to make it easy for your customers to complain when they think it's necessary."
  • Pursue lost business. Customers and clients come and go from businesses of all sorts. Needless to say, it's impossible to know the reason for every bit of turnover but, if you lose a key client, take the time to contact that person and ask why. Not only do you come across as a businessperson of integrity who genuinely wants to know what went wrong, but you'll likely get valuable feedback. And — who knows? — you may be able to win them back.
  • Check your print. Building customer confidence by spoken word and action is critical, but even the most forthright business can be undermined by misleading — or worse — dishonest print material. Review every bit of advertising, brochures and other documents to make certain they're persuasive without being the least bit deceptive.
  • Stay involved. Poor Kenny Lay (the former Enron CEO) was too busy refurbishing all those mountain condos to hear what the poor chump at the pump had to say. Well, you're not that insular, nor should you be. Try to involve your business in the community on any number of levels, not merely commercial. "My rule is, if there are more than 50 butts in a room, I'm there," says Egelhoff. "Look into joining the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way and other groups. That way, people see you just not in the business realm; it shows that you care about what's going on."
  • Involve everyone. Equally important to building public faith is recruiting your employees into the effort. Talk with them about the damage corporate dishonesty has done and how critical it is to take a team approach to piecing public trust back together. "An owner can only do so much. Involve your employees and let them know that people are looking more critically at business than ever before," says Egelhoff.
  • Check your books. The era of the business owner taking a hands-off approach to accounting and record keeping has likely gone the way of eight-track tapes. If, by chance, you just hand your material off to a bookkeeper or accountant and hope for the best, break the habit now. Review your financial statements, tax returns and other money materials in detail to make certain that all the numbers are accurate and up-to-date. That further reinforces the role of a businessperson intent on an honest profit (not to mention involving you firsthand in a central barometer of your business' health and growth).
  • A name is no game. One final tip to rebuild the public's faith in business is simple, yet no less powerful. Whenever possible, call your clients and customers by name. Use whatever system or strategy that works most effectively for you, but devise some way to remember as many names as you can. Not merely polite, but a reminder of the close ties that small businesses of all sorts have with the people and the community around them — close ties that can only foster integrity and confidence. "Calling people by their names sets them apart and makes them feel special," says Egelhoff. "It's so simple and easy, but also refreshing. And that can make people feel as though they owe it to you to say something when they think something is wrong."

    [CLB: Simple starting points to staying in tune with your business, it's practices, and polishing your successful good reputation in business.]

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    "We shall need compromises in the days ahead, to be sure. But these will be, or should be, compromises of issues, not principles. We can compromise our political positions, but not ourselves. We can resolve the clash of interests without conceding our ideals. And even the necessity for the right kind of compromise does not eliminate the need for those idealists and reformers who keep our compromises moving ahead, who prevent all political situations from meeting the description supplied by Shaw: "smirched with compromise, rotted with opportunism, mildewed by expedience, stretched out of shape with wirepulling and putrefied with permeation.
    Compromise need not mean cowardice. .."

    John Fitzgerald Kennedy, "Profiles in Courage"


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