Integrity Trumps Everything

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, EO Octane blog contributors and Barefoot Wine Founders


We can’t have a cop on every corner or a regulator in every office. At some point we must rely on the people we hire, do business with, and buy products or services from. When we cannot depend on these people, we look to terminate the relationship and search for alternatives. It’s only human nature. We need a stable, dependable platform that we can rely upon to build any relationship.

Aspiring entrepreneurs often ask us what the most important factor is in building a successful business. They ask, “How can I keep and grow my customer base? Is it cornering a narrow niche where you’re the only game in town? Is it providing outstanding value for money? Is it a slick package and a compelling slogan? Is it a cute and memorable logo?”

It’s certainly all those things, but one factor stands out above all else. It is the deal breaker when it’s missing and the glue that bonds customers to your company when it’s demonstrated. It’s doing what you say or imply you are going to do, and what you are expected to do. It’s meeting deadlines, covering bases, and looking out for your customer. It living up to your warranties and solving customer problems with your product or service. It’s called integrity.

And what happens when you make a mistake that hurts your customer? You immediately admit to it and make amends. You show them how you learned from the mistake and what steps you have taken to prevent its reoccurrence. We often say, “People don’t remember how you do when things go smoothly but how you do when times are tough!”

Yes, it can be costly to live up to your promises. Once we had to write a check for $5,000 to a major supermarket because we made a mistake on a back label that was scanning through its cash registers at half the price than it should have. The buyer was unaware of the mistake and what it was costing him. He was surprised that we brought it to his attention and instantly made it right. He was reassured when we showed him how it happened and how it would never happen again. At that point, he knew he could trust us. Soon after, he expanded our line in all his stores.

We’ve learned that normal inadequacies, weaknesses, and imperfections are more easily forgiven when we are reliable. It is the most highly valued attribute in business. Sometimes our quotes to clients were too low, but we honored those quotes at a loss to us. Why? Because we said we would and our customer expected it. Our word is our bond.

Through this we learned the importance of understanding our customers’ expectations and all the hidden costs that will be expected of us, and took all this into account before we made our quotes.

The same thing goes with employment. If your boss finds you to be dependable and reliable, he or she will be more likely to tolerate a slower learning curve or the occasional foul-up.  When we hire people the first thing we look for is integrity. We know we can generally teach them the skills they lack – if we can trust them.

When we hire a service or buy a product we look for the same quality. We know there are going to be mishaps but we want to know how a business has treated their customers in the past. What does their customer service look like?  Do they honor their guarantees? Do they deliver on time? Are they reliable?

When building a relationship, integrity trumps everything!

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By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, EO Octane blog contributors and Barefoot Wine Founders. The Barefoot Wine Founders are New York Times Bestselling Authors, International Keynote Speakers and Corporate Trainers.

Categories: Best Practices Coaching Guest contributors


2 Responses to “ Integrity Trumps Everything ”

  1. Ed Segalla on

    Michael & Bonnie,
    Your Word Is Your Bond
    Keeping your word, no matter what the cost to you, is based upon the biblical principle found in Matthew 5:37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ be your ‘No’.
    I have found all good business principles have their origin in the bible.
    Your focus on integrity is very much appreciated.

    Ed Segalla


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