Business Strategy & Principles: Values, Character, & Integrity

Business Strategy: Values Character and Integrity puzzle piece image

Are you Living ‘The Dream’ or ‘In a Nightmare’?

This week I am going a little philosophical. I’m going to talk about values, character, and integrity and their place in business strategy.

Starting and running a business is one of the hardest and most challenging things that many of us have ever done in our lives. Except maybe, being a parent and running a business is a little like being a parent.

You have this idea. You think it might work so you start doing your homework. You plan for it. You dream about what it’s going to become. You see the beautiful design of your logo and your business even starts to take on a personality.

It might be serious and to the point or quirky and fun. It might be outdoorsy or bookish or super technical. Then one day, all your planning comes to an end and it’s time to make it happen. You have set all the wheels in motion and you file for a business license. Your business is born.

Now it’s real. It exists. After all, your business license is a lot like your businesses birth certificate. Up till now, you have invested in all the toys your business will need. You have tracked down the best software and hardware, be that furniture or equipment. But all your preparing for your bundle of joy can’t prepare you for the growing pains to come.

Nights spent sitting up worrying. Will your business get customers? Can it survive the newest innovations that are constantly appearing? Will it get a bad reputation? Will other businesses avoid you? Sounds a lot like how we feel when we think of our children.

Will they have friends? Can they overcome some hurdle? Will the other kids think they smell? Will the other children what to play with them? It has amazed me as I have traveled down this path of business ownership how much being a parent prepared my mind for the stresses that come with my business.

I have also found that the more I treat my business like just another member of my family and apply the same rules to it as I do my kids, the better it functions. It has its place within the family, and I never let it have more importance than it is due. When it was a newborn, it took up all of my time. Now that it’s a little older and can do some things for itself, sometimes it has to do just that or wait for me.

I realized that I have to behave as though I am ‘raising’ my business. I have to set an example for it and firm rules so that when its ‘all grown up’ it will be something other people will trust.

My viewpoint all comes down to 3 principal questions:

‘What Values do we represent?’

‘What kind of character do we present?’

‘Do we act with integrity?’

I know this whole metaphor might feel a little silly. But, for some, I bet it is ringing true. You see how much they are alike. You might even have just figured out why your business causes you so much anxiety as you reread the principal questions.

Your business isn’t doing what you want it to do and it feels a bit like you have a child in the midst of a tantrum that is demanding all your attention or maybe a rebellious teen that it feels like is trying to destroy your life.

If this is you, really think and ask yourself the 3 questions I posed above. If you can’t answer them or don’t like the answer, you may have just discovered why your dream has become your nightmare. So, lets walk through the principles 1 by 1 and see if we can’t figure, it out.

The Values of You and Your Company

Values: a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important; the guidelines you use

I call this section ‘Knowing What To Do’. You will hear a lot of experts throw around lots of theories about values. But values are not just something that you tell people. It is something that is proven with every action you and your company take.

‘My company has 7 core values’ is a strong statement. It might even make you curious what those values are, and I will totally list them at the end for anyone that’s curious. The point is, I can say we have 7 core values, but unless I show that with the way I do business and treat my customers, they are just words.

I believe it is important that every decision that I make be guided by certain principles. These are my values. The values you proclaim are not always the values you follow. I could say that compassion is at the heart of every decision I make.

But what if I have a customer that comes to me with a sob story about not having the money to pay me this month. Compassion would dictate that I let the customer not pay me and wait for my money. But it wouldn’t be compassionate to take advantage of that customer by charging interest because they can’t pay their bill. So, I would have to accept a late payment with no penalty for the customer. This is of course just one way to interpret compassion.

If you followed my convoluted scenario, you could see how what we think we believe, and the real implications of those beliefs can end up miles apart. When you are deciding what the values of your business are, you can’t just arbitrarily choose words that sound good. You must think about how they might actually come into play and how they might interact with one another.

To bring it back to my parenting metaphor, you might think that you are a calm loving parent. But your children are the mirror by which you will see whether that is true or not. If your children are always screaming and never patient about anything, you might want to take a closer look at what you are doing.

Your business is the same way. If you look at the way your business is running and interacting with you customers and you don’t see those values reflecting back at you, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Your Character and Your Companies Character

Character: the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual; the traits that help you decide what is right and what is wrong; the traits you show when you respond to a given situation

I call this section ‘Having the strength to do it’. Your character is distinctly different from your values. Your values are how you determine what’s important. Your character is how you act on those evaluations.

Another way of thinking about it is your values guide your decision making and your character helps you decide what to do. The two concepts are related but very different from one another. Values= what you think and Character= what you do.

Your values and your companies’ values should evolve over time. Beliefs grow and change over time. They are constantly influenced by the interactions that you have with others and the experiences that you have. The character of your company should remain constant. Character traits should be rooted more deeply and guide the way that we behave in given situations.

Character can override values. Someone could have the character trait of loyalty and the value of gratitude. Can you see how they might conflict? You are loyal at your core and would never betray your business partner, but an expression of gratitude towards another CEO that your partner has expressed distaste towards could be construed as betrayal. You only meant to convey thanks for some unnamed way that person helped you. But, in accepting the help in the first place it could be seen as disregarding your partners feelings altogether.

Separating character and values can seem like a chore. After all, the two terms are used interchangeably by many individuals. But, understanding that they are different can help you not only figure out why someone did what they did, but help you predict what they will do again depending on the circumstances.

It boils down to watching what people do. You should absolutely listen to what they say they believe and react accordingly. But, watching what they do will give you more information in the long run. As long as you remember that one bad day, does not a habit make.

Do You Have Integrity

Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness

I call this section ‘What are you doing when no one is watching’. Integrity is the place where your character and your values cross paths. What are you doing when no one’s eyes are on you.

The way I see it is, everyone can always see your values. You are announcing to the world that this is what you believe. Your character can been seen by you and those you directly interact with. They see the way you act from day to day and have direct examples to back up or refute your character claims. Only you and your God know the state of your integrity.

Like I said, I call this section what you do when no one is watching. It is the consistency between your values and your character. You can showcase whatever public facing traits that you want, but those behind closed doors decisions matter way more than you think.

I obviously won’t name names because who wants a lawsuit on their hands, but if you think really hard, I bet you can come up with at least one company that is lacking in integrity despite what they proclaim as their values. How many can you think of that proclaim honesty, but would cover their rear end to kingdom come before they admit they did something wrong?

This is partially due to the litigious society we live in, but it is still a breach of integrity. Your integrity is how closely do you follow the guidelines you have set for yourself through your values and character.

Most will say that integrity is the cornerstone of all ethical behavior. It implies trustworthiness. A person or company with integrity can be trusted to do the right and moral thing regardless of the circumstances.

Integrity is also highlighted when you give credit where it is due. Most of the people you will deal with are not ignorant. They know that you are not the only person they have to thank for the services that you are providing. Credit your content developers, your sales team, or your implementation specialists. Whoever is on your team deserves to know they are appreciated by you. Don’t leave your ‘integrity’ at the door when you put on your business owners hat every morning. It’s the most attractive quality you wear.

Wrapping it all up

Values, Character, and Integrity are not synonyms. They are not inter-changeable although I can see the reason people think they are. Whichever one you are discussing; honesty is your best policy. Understanding these principles in context for business strategy gives you a leg up on your competitors.

At the beginning of this article I posed 3 questions:

What Values do we represent

What kind of character do we present

Do we act with integrity

Do you know what you should do? Of course you do and if you don’t, now you know you need to find someone to teach you.

Do you have the strength to follow through with what you know? If you don’t, know you know that you need to find help.

Are you still doing it when no one is watching?

The Kingdoms 7 Core Values:

Honor– We must have Honor in all our actions. We must not profit merely by someone else’s loss. That is dishonorable. If we are to profit, we must lessen the suffering of others through our actions. Only then may we reap great profits.

-At the end of the day, we should be able to say we helped.

Ability– We must have greater Ability than that of our adversaries. Our skills and talents are the best tools we have. We must be able to track our results. Our goals must be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

-At the end of the day, we should be able to say we are

Advantage– We must have the Advantage if we are to succeed. To attack our problems from the higher ground is the most basic of combat principles.

-At the end of the day, we should be able to say we were where we needed to be.

Discipline– We must have Discipline to achieve our goals. If we are not willing to take every step, we cannot win.

-At the end of the day, we should be able to say we did not quit.

Strength– We must have the Strength to accomplish our objectives. Though we be at the finish line, if our strength fails, how shall we take the last victorious step?

-At the end of the day, we should be able to say, we did it.

Training- We must have the Training to identify and aid our clients. If we do not, then it becomes an opportunity to learn and further educate ourselves.

-At the end of the day, we should be able to say, we know what we are doing.

Consistency- We must have Consistency if we are to earn trust. Everyone must know er are solid and unwavering at all times.

-At the end of the day, we should be able to say they got what we promised.