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Doing the Right Thing When No One Else is Watching

By: Mike Kappel


Integrity: Sometimes we wonder if it exists anywhere anymore. The news can make us so jaded that we’re surprised when we hear that someone has actually done the right thing.

Is it possible to have integrity and be in business? It is. I am a business owner and I try to live a life of integrity. I’m not the only one. I know many people in business who aren’t making news, but staying true to the governing principles of their lives.
The word “integrity” comes from the Latin word “integritas,” meaning “soundness, wholeness.” To me, it’s about staying true to your moral and ethical principles, and having those values all in alignment.
For instance, if you’re driving down the street and one wheel is about to fall off your car, it’s going to be very hard to keep your car on the road. Likewise, if your values are out of alignment, it’s going to be very difficult to stay on the right path. I think it’s nearly impossible to have integrity in just one area of your life but not in the others. Eventually, the wheels will come off and the truth will be revealed.
I can’t talk about integrity without first talking about my faith. I’m a Christian, and everyone who works for me knows it. God has had His hand on my companies from the very beginning, and I give God all the credit.
We’ve built our five companies based on several important core values, and those values are right on our website for everyone to see: “We are hard-working, responsive, reliable, friendly and honest.” My employees and I see reminders of these core values on a screen that we walk past every day. Again, seeing this daily reinforcement helps us maintain our integrity, and it’s the reason we are successful.
Here are some more thoughts.
Integrity may cost you something
It may mean giving up a lucrative business deal, or saying goodbye to a top customer who brings in a lot of business, but constantly berates your support staff. Integrity may cost you your time, simply because it takes longer to do something the right way. It may mean you don’t hire the overseas supplier with a poor safety record. Sometimes, integrity can affect your profit margin, and you need to be okay with that (as painful as that can be).
Treat people the way you want to be treated
The golden rule that you learned in school applies to business and how you treat your customers. I could make a lot more money if I set exorbitantly high prices and locked people into long-term contracts, with all kinds of fine print and hidden costs. But I’m a business owner myself, and that way of thinking doesn’t line up with my belief that small business owners need a break. We need software to be easy to use and easy on our budget. That’s why I started the company in the first place—because I’m passionate about helping small businesses succeed.
Hire people who have integrity
I can’t expect our customers to trust me or my company if I hire people who aren’t trustworthy. I am careful to perform background checks on each person hired, and each new employee receives a copy of “Start Right, Stay Right,” a booklet that spells out my expectations for their work and includes great reminders for all of us.
Make sure others hold you accountable
To me, having integrity also means surrounding myself with people who will tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. God has blessed me with a wonderful wife, family, friends, and co-workers who expect me to lead a life of integrity, and if I don’t, you can be sure I will hear about it!
Simply put, to me, integrity is doing the right thing when nobody else is watching.
Published: August 26, 2013

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Mike Kappel

Mike Kappel is the president of Patriot Software, Inc., which develops affordable online software for U.S. small business owners. Patriot Software is one of five successful small businesses he’s started in the last 25 years. He still enjoys the challenge of a start-up, and shares his experience and passion for entrepreneurship in his blog, the Small Business Expert. Contact him at mkappel@patriotsoftware.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @MikeKappel and on Google+.

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