Integrity is Fundamental to Startups
This post originally appeared on blog.up.co
Some companies have integrity listed as a core value. This shouldn't be a core value at all. Integrity should be inherent to just being in business.
To all you entrepreneurs out there, integrity is the effort to be respected. And integrity takes constant maintenance. That maintenance is the sole purpose of a business's core values.
Think about integrity as identity
Who and what you are as a person and as a startup is crucial - for competitive advantage, for differentiation, for strategy, for marketing, for what you are not, for who you do and don't serve, and so on. (Your startup might be able to fake it for a time, but ultimately, your real identity will show through.) It follows, then, that the degree to which a person or company has integrity is the degree to which he, she or they are fundamentally deserving of respect and association.
Two disclaimers about the power of integrity...
First, integrity does not a startup make. Integrity cannot take the place of a poor product or service. You could run a company of an integrity the world has never before witnessed. If, however, your startup is based upon a product or service that doesn't warrant demand, the startup won't last.
Secondly, integrity that leads to respect has nothing to do with power. Power is influence. Take for example a large company that dumps toxic waste into rivers. Say they have lobbyists on the payroll. The wrongdoer's power to influence government policy does not supersede a lack of integrity.
Integrity is ultimately perspective unto, not put forward
Respect is the magnitude someone bestows upon another - as a person or business with whom to associate. For example, Joey is so polite, but Joey cannot sell his politeness. Others can recognize, accept and consider it in part as reason to conduct business with Joey and his company.
The key to integrity is to conduct oneself as respect-worthy at all times
Say Sarah always goes the extra mile. What if Sarah works hard only when someone is watching? She'll eventually be outed, surely losing a sense of integrity as applied by others who realize her ruse.
Less cynically, Gail's team has never met a challenge they don't like. Gail's startup must take on challenges whether or not others recognize her team's great energy and devotion to problem solving. Similar to Sarah, but in the opposite light, others will eventually take notice. That startup will develop a reputation of integrity.
Integrity is yours to develop and maintain
In the example above, Sarah can change her attitude and work hard all of the time. She might begin to value quality. Quality would then be the value that maintains Sarah's sense of integrity. Furthering another example from above, Joey may swear by being polite to everyone. Maybe he believes that is how one person should treat another. Valuing humbleness and humanity are the tools for ensuring integrity for Joey.
In summation, integrity is about respect from others' perspective; integrity must be practiced or developed, and maintained all of the time; additionally, values maintain integrity.
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