Joseph Slawek – Five character traits you need to follow in your business

Joseph James Slawek, Founder, Chairman and CEO, FONA International

Have you ever stopped to think about what leads to great outcomes in your business? How about when a plan doesn’t work? Was it the plan itself that failed or something larger?

It’s important to remember excellent results come from more than just excellent strategies and tactics. It is the character of our organizations that determines the ultimate success or failure of our plan.

The fact that your success will rise and fall on the collective personal character of your organization can be a sobering thought. Of course, there can be other circumstances at play. But all too often, the missing component in reaching strategic and tactical success is a gap in the company’s collective character.

And make no mistake about it: Your company’s character starts with you.

People turn to leaders who exhibit consistent great character. And customers turn to companies who exhibit consistent great character. This is a chain reaction that begins with you and can end with wonderful success for your organization.

Here are five points of character I believe we CEOs should keep in mind when leading our organizations. Modeling these points drives the creation of a collective culture that delivers excellent results from well-laid strategies and tactics:

Encourage mistakes

Employees who aren’t fearful of mistakes reach for new ideas, create new ways to help customers and develop better methods of doing business. Encourage this desire in your team members. Release them from worry of doing the wrong thing and set them free to create the next big thing.

Treat everyone equally

Some years ago, Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson wrote a booklet of leadership observations in which he cautions, “Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with.”

From your leadership peers to the man hauling out your recycling, treat everyone with the same respect and care. When your employees feel valued at all levels and see that everyone matters to you, it fosters an environment of respect and kindness that will naturally carry over to how they treat your customers. You’ll have employees who genuinely want your company to succeed — and who better to carry out your strategies and tactics?

Continuously improve

Stay on top of the most recent research, tools and education in your field, and encourage your employees to do the same. Provide ample opportunities for them to better themselves, both professionally and personally. Smarter, more engaged, happier employees serve your customers better, deliver more and execute plans better. In simple terms, put the best into your people, so you’ll get the best out.


I often tell my wonderful employees that I want to send them home safer and healthier than when they arrived in the morning, and I work to implement processes and programs to support this. Genuine caring for the people who carry out the business of your business reverberates throughout the organization.

As with all of these character points, they ripple from you to your employees to your customers, helping excellent work be done all along the way, resulting in great successes. Care about your employees and they’ll care about your business.

Do the right thing

Helping others, taking responsibility, owning up to mistakes, honoring your word — when these are the types of things you are known for, they become the types of things your organization is known for. A culture of responsibility, kindness and honesty. That is the type of culture that does the right thing — even when the boss isn’t looking.

Joseph James Slawek is the founder, chairman and CEO of FONA International, a full-service flavor company serving some of the largest food, beverage, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical companies in the world. For more information, visit