Integrity scandals are nothing new. Even now you can read about the Wells Fargo scandal. At the same time, Taiwan’s FSC chairman has resigned amid a mega financial scandal and Singapore has shut down a second Swiss bank over a corruption scandal. 

The list goes on and was already long before these recent cases. Even if you aren’t running a major bank or Fortune 500 company, integrity is vital to your business. 

Simply stated, integrity means to be honest and fair. Merriam-Webster defines it as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values” and “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” 

Think about it for a minute. Would you want to hire an employee with a reputation for stealing, providing poor service or otherwise lacking integrity in some area of their life? Likewise, your company’s integrity speaks volumes in the marketplace. If you build your company on the foundation of integrity, it will pay dividends in the years ahead.

Three Reasons to Cultivate Integrity in Your Business

Here are three ways cultivating a culture of integrity in your business will serve you well as you build on its foundation.

1. Your brand depends on it. There’s plenty of talk about brand building in the marketing world. Integrity is the hallmark of every strong brand. Compromising this hallmark will damage your brand, sometimes irreparably in a customer’s eyes.

Transformational leader Barbara De Angelis put it this way: “Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.”

2. Relationship-building demands trust. Any relationship you build requires trust. Building a business means earning—and keeping the trust—of your customers. Without integrity, those efforts will fall short.

Oprah Winfrey brings it home, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”

3. Your reputation precedes you. Word travels fast. If your company lacks integrity, you may realize a negative viral impact on your bottom line as your customers will tell their friends, and their friends tell their friends, and so on.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

What True Integrity Looks Like

So what does integrity look like in practice? Being honest even when it means you may lose a customer is the beginning of integrity. Don’t oversell, overpromise or over pressure. 

Don’t take shortcuts in relationship building. Spend the time to get to know what your customers need so you can honestly provide the best products or services. In doing so, you will win their loyalty.

Treat your employees, customers and partners with respect. They are not just cogs on a wheel. They are real people with real challenges that need real solutions. When you show respect, you gain respect. 

And always keep raising the bar. Integrity doesn’t settle for what is acceptable—it pursues what is excellent. 

The late Victor K. Kiam, an American entrepreneur and TV spokesman for Remington Products, and the owner of the New England Patriots football team from 1988–1991, said it best, “As an entrepreneur, a reputation for integrity is your most valuable commodity. If you try to put something over on someone, it will come back to haunt you.”