The Importance of Integrity as an Entrepreneur

I had an interesting experience a few weeks ago that has been bothering me since the day it happened. This event seriously made me consider the importance of working with people of integrity as a small business owner.

Definitely a blog-worthy subject.

I own and manage a business that provides turn key office space, co-working space and virtual offices to small businesses. A few weeks ago, when I returned from lunch, several of my customers informed me that three men in button up shirts, representing an emerging competitor came on-site as soon as I left and hand delivered flyers to them to promote their new business. When I started looking around I noticed their marketing material on the tables in my break room, the counter in the kitchen and the counter in my workroom. I was told that they were handing out flyers to tenants as they were in the hall going to the restroom, heading out to lunch, even getting coffee in the break room area.

I was completely floored that any professional business would be that brazen and unethical and was pretty upset by this violation of my personal space. Honestly!

And just for the record, we don’t allow soliciting here from anyone, especially not from competitors.

I was given so much advice on how to handle this situation I had to laugh at some of the suggestions, but my absolute favorite bit of advice went something like this:

“I’ll tell you exactly what I’d do….in a split second! I’d attend the event they were promoting, hand out your flyers to the prospects and then hand deliver their flyers back to them after you finished meeting everyone!!”

Man, just the thought of that made me feel so much better! Unfortunately that’s just not how I operate….but I sure thought about it for a few seconds!

But, you know one thought keeps coming to mind again and again?

“If I was a male business owner, would they have had that kind of nerve? Would they have come onsite and market to my customers in my own office?”

I seriously doubt they would have and there’s nothing I can do about it anyway. But I sure could write an entire blog on the struggles we face as female entrepreneurs…

Actually, I probably will (just not today) :)

Anyway, to provide some insight on how our integrity effects the success of our business, I’d like to share a little feedback I received from the recipients of this marketing effort, many of whom gave the flyers to me:

“Wow, that took a lot of nerve!”

“If they are this unethical, why in the world would I want to work with them?”

“You must be doing something right for them to go this far to poach your customers.”

I honestly don’t mind a little healthy competition….in fact, it keeps me on my toes, helps me grow as a business owner and encourages me reach a little higher. I consider competition a necessary component of growth, because without a little pressure there’s no reason to “sprint” a little faster to catch up. And we will never grow as entrepreneurs if we allow ourselves to become too comfortable.

Having said that…

I will say that when I started my business, I remember working very hard to think of new and innovative ways to let business owners know that I exist and to try to draw in new clients. I chose to pursue avenues like social media, networking events, marketing flyers and client referrals while I developed my reputation in the business community.

I know I’m a little “old school” but I honestly believe people of substance don’t behave this way. It’s unnecessary, and that’s simply not the way visionaries think. Their plans include a unique vision, knowing what it will take to realize that vision and a specific plan of action. Visionaries know how they will go about working to achieve their dreams and their plans don’t generally include pushing someone down to get to the top.

When you are a small business owner, it is extremely important to work with people of integrity, whether you are working with clients, vendors, or potential employees. There’s such a big difference between working with someone who genuinely wants you to grow as a small business, and someone who views your small businesses as an opportunity to make some “easy money”. I have noticed a disturbing trend of individuals and organizations who seem to view entrepreneurs as a way to make money by capitalizing on their hopes and dreams, and I’ve heard too many small business owners tell me that the end result has actually harmed their business, rather than helping them.

When you surround yourself with people you admire, they tend to rub off on you.

When we personally know we have what it takes to win, we evaluate our weaknesses, we develop a plan to strengthen our products and services, we take steps to get stronger where we need to…and, we stay on our side of the court!

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

I guess we all need to be very careful who we choose to do business with, and remember that not everything that glistens is made of gold.

Happy Thursday fellowpreneurs!

Sandy Meeks, Owner

EBS Executive Suites