Creating a solid reputation for yourself and your business is THE way to build professional trust and credibility. It requires commitment and dedication to operating with integrity and with ethical principles. The premise is simple: “Do what you say you’re going to do.” It’s the execution that becomes challenging on several levels.
The rewards you get in exchange for your commitment can be game-changing, both personally and professionally. Integrity can open doors to new opportunities and referrals that bring stability and security to your life and your business. It can also provide a sense of pride and confidence because you know you’re building a reputation that can stand the test of time. Eventually, your good name will become a part of the legacy you leave behind.
However, the reality is that you’re not building your reputation in a vacuum. You are likely competing against others in your industry. You’re competing for customers, market share, employment opportunities, etc. The competitive element uncovers one of the major challenges associated with operating with integrity.
The higher the stakes, the more competitive things get. As competition rises, the more integrity becomes optional for many people who are determined to win at all costs.
As an entrepreneur, I have made it a priority to operate with integrity and honor. It is a part of who I am as a person, and I am committed to any business, product, or service to hold those same values. It is also a reflection of the audience that I serve — those who have been underestimated and undervalued throughout their journey. Over the years, I have run into many competitors and would-be collaborators who prioritize business metrics over ethics. Many use buzzwords to gain attention and eyeballs. But, ultimately they prey on the collective desires of my audience to change their station in life.
There are times when I will compete, and other times I choose to walk away. Here are a few of the lessons that have guided my decisions along the way:
Fight against the race to the bottom
Companies that don’t prioritize integrity may be able to out-compete you in some cases. They might be able to offer lower prices or faster turnaround times at the expense of doing things ethically. They may beat you on price, but can you win on value? Value is price-driven, but it’s not the only factor.
Many companies and brands that have established themselves, their ethics, and their commitment to doing the right things for the right reasons, have been able to create longevity. They stand on their brand promise at all costs. As the saying goes, “all money isn’t good money.”
Find a niche that can tell the difference
The intention you pour into building products and services with integrity, and ethical standards will pay dividends. You might have to travel a long road to find your community. But when you do, they will reciprocate the loyalty you’ve extended to them. In a world where products and services get bastardized and commoditized at every turn, you can’t chase everybody. Your audience will appreciate your approach to serving them. Lean into their needs and work to do two things:
- Create opportunities to build products and services that create deeper value with them
- Find avenues to attract more of your audience
Get comfortable with missing out
It feels counterintuitive to talk about saying no to opportunities, especially when you’re trying to build a business. But realize, every time you say yes to something that doesn’t align, you are saying no to another potential opportunity. And that might be the one to launch your business into the next phase of growth with the right people.
It may feel like you’re falling behind. Social media world will make you feel like you have to chase every opportunity. But you’re not trying to keep up with the highlight reels many of your competitors are posting. You’re looking to create something deeper and more impactful.
The more you chase, the higher the chances are that you find something or someone that doesn’t fit. You’ll invest time, effort, and energy in chasing — you can’t get that back. And by chasing opportunities that don’t fit, you run the risk of alienating your core base. Now your investment will compound if you have to repair the relationship with your audience or unwind from a misaligned opportunity. Either way, it is harder to get a return on that investment that does more than breakeven. At best, you can probably extract a lesson.
At the end of the day, operating with integrity is essential for long-term success. It might be a bit more challenging to build your positive reputation, but the benefits are worth it. You have to be willing to fight against the race to the bottom and focus on building a valuable product or service that meets the needs of your audience. And, it’s important to remember to get comfortable with saying no to opportunities that don’t align with your values and mission.