Character matters

Don’t compromise your integrity to win a deal

I had the opportunity to perform in a community theater production of “The Music Man” with my family. During Iowa Stubborn, early in the opening act, the entire cast was on stage moving together. It was powerfully entertaining.

I found comfort knowing no one would notice my lack of experience amid dozens of people. Or so I thought. Our director then said something that shattered my confidence and compelled me to be my best. He said, “All audience eyes turn to the person who is out of step.” I quickly put myself in the shoes of an audience member and realized how true this statement was.

Lessons for doing business

In business, especially as a leader, you must consider that you are always on stage. Do not try to hide in the crowd. What do you do when no one is watching? What do you say when only a select few are listening? You may not think it matters, but it does.

No matter how calculated these actions are and how carefully they are thought through, they end up hurting your business in the end. Why? Because everyone gets hundreds of chances a day to show their character, to demonstrate that they are individuals of honesty and of integrity. However, compromising your values to gain advantage, even once, can destroy the trust that’s been built over the years with your customers, colleagues and community.

Sooner or later your character (or lack thereof) rises to the surface. Your business partners and customers will eventually find other avenues to meet their needs, create partnerships and business deals. While they may never tell you the reason for their actions, discerning colleagues and customers will see through the veneer, identify the lack of substance and move on.

Everything they don’t see

Here’s how to have strong character in business:

  • Be honest about your dealings. Do what you say you are going to do.
  • Be genuine. Doing business is all about trust. Showing people you are human and not a robotic, flawless individual makes believing you a little easier.
  • Don’t exaggerate. Overstating your case can be fatal. Going too far with that third or fourth point to sell your product or business puts everything you say in doubt.
  • Remedy offenses quickly and directly. If your integrity is ever challenged, apologize directly to the offended without delay and genuinely ask what you can do to repair any damage.

Keep your business strong by building trust and not giving your customers or colleagues a reason to turn their eyes to your missteps. Don’t leave any reason to question your integrity and always take the high road. In the end, all the things they didn’t see you do will strengthen your business.

Anthony Margida is CEO of TechGrit AMX2, executive director of Akron Global Business Accelerator and president at The Bit Factory LLC.