Such encouraging words from Nelson Mandela. He continues, “Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” While these words were written more than 20 years ago, they still ring true today. Most importantly, these words should give hope to our society. Hope that one day, we can all learn to love a little more and hate a little less.
The best companies recognize customer expectations, manage customer expectations, and exceed customer expectations. And these companies are rewarded with a loyal, zealous customer base. Their customers become their biggest advocates. They offer word-of-mouth advertising, testimonials, and reviews on social media, Google, and product sales sites. But the majority of companies promise more than they deliver. And while most customers will forgive you for one failure, you will be held accountable for routine failures. As in, customers will find someone else to do business with. Because ultimately, regardless of the industry you are in, you cannot maintain respect with your customers if you do not keep the promises that you make. Great companies know the importance of delivery. They meet the expectations set at the beginning of a contract. Most importantly, if their contract terms are not competitive, they make internal adjustments. They do not make promises they cannot keep.
What is your reputation in your local business community? Are you considered to be a person of your word? To be trustworthy? Do you have a reputation for doing what you say you are going to do? Or is your reputation less than honorable? Nothing irritates me more than to be told one thing by a customer or a vendor and later learn that it was not true. Everyone makes mistakes, and I will give grace to any long-term business associate. But nobody wants to work with someone who lies. It is simply unacceptable. People like to do business with people they like. And people of integrity like to do business with other people of integrity. So in business and in life, always strive to do the right thing.
Ever been guilty of saying too much? I think we all are guilty of saying too much at some time or another. Whether you are interviewing a potential employee or terminating a long-term employee, whether you are selling services to a new customer or introducing new services to an existing customer, whatever the given situation may be, people tend to say too much. Over-promising and over-committing are never habits of successful people. Success requires disciplined action, including restraint with your words. No successful person tells everything they know. And they certainly do not promise more than they are prepared to deliver. Most would rather under-promise and lose a business deal than to over-promise and lose respect. In EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey says, “Even a fish can’t be caught if he keeps his mouth shut.” So when you find yourself talking too much, be wise. Be quiet and listen.
As a business owner, one must decide how he will treat those around him. Will he treat his employees, his customers, and his competitors fairly? Will he be truthful? Will he be merciful? Certainly, there is a prevailing notion in our society today to succeed at all costs. That one should be willing to do anything to succeed. But I believe that you can succeed fairly. You can live a successful life and still treat others with respect and deal with them honestly. And when you are the victim of unfair business practices, you take the high road. Because winning at business is a small part of winning at life. How you win matters. This week, take a hard look at how you are treating the people around you. Be truthful. Show mercy. Live a life worth living.
It takes the entire time you know someone to build trust, and only a second to destroy it. As a leader, your team will trust you only as long as they believe that you are a person of integrity. That you will do the right thing no matter the situation. That is how you build trust with your team. In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz recalls a restructuring he initiated so his core company could survive. The bottom line: 150 employees would become employees of another company. And 140 employees would be looking for a job. Instead of going to New York for the announcement, a mentor advised him to go tell his employees where they stood. It could not wait a day. By showing integrity with these employees, he maintained his trust with the employees who would stay. How have you shown integrity with your team?
Sam Walton established Wal-Mart with two principles, low prices and satisfaction guaranteed. And he never wavered in his dedication to these principles. In fact, he was a fanatic when it came to having the lowest prices anywhere. Much of Wal-Mart’s early success resulted from this absolute dedication to low prices, not from doing everything right. Actually, there were many, many things that Wal-Mart was not good at in the beginning. But they stuck to their core principles. So, when people shopped at Wal-Mart, they expected low prices. And that is exactly what they received. All too often, businesses fail to understand the one or two core factors that have the greatest potential to drive their success. If you own a small business, what are your core values? What do your customers expect to receive from your company? If you do not know, it is time to start figuring it out.