“Success without integrity is failure.” – John Gunn
Ethics in doing business is always important, wherever you are. In a start-up, it is particularly important because the journey has only just begun. The household brands and names in all sectors got to where they are through their integrity in business practices. The first lesson to be learnt when going into business is that success and integrity go hand-in-hand. Cutting corners, painting rosy pictures of scenarios that are bleak and a lack of integrity can very quickly bring the downfall of a company.
Every founder of a start-up has a vision of where they see themselves and their company. It may not seem like a problem to falsify a few numbers or give incorrect information to investors and potential hires. The idea is that these practices make the road to the top easier and most importantly, faster. What many people fail to realise is that this is the quickest route to a downfall. Customers and investors like to be told the truth, even if it is harsh. Today, investors use integrity as a major factor in deciding to invest or fund a start-up. If your company has a bad reputation, it becomes almost impossible to find investors, let alone make them stay.
Trust, once lost, is very hard to win back. One misstep, one lie, one act of misrepresentation is all it takes. Once your reputation is tarnished, it is difficult to be back in people’s good books. Considering how easy it is to falsify information in today’s world, integrity has become even more valuable. Impatience is part of the problem. People want a shortcut to success and wealth. They want the quickest method to achieving their dreams. What they fail to realise is that the road to success is slow and hard. It requires patience. When a firm is known for being truthful, even if the numbers are not perfect, people know they can be trusted.
In a start-up, you are already on shaky ground. This is particularly true in the first few years. It may seem like a good idea to abandon some principles to achieve financial stability. What happens is that the truth somehow finds its way out. Even if it doesn’t, why would you want something so close to your heart to succeed based on lies? It is better to be financially unstable for a longer period and maintain your reputation and integrity rather than throw it all under the bus for a quicker route to “stability”. This stability rarely lasts. The problem with lies is that once you tell one, many more have to be told to cover up the first one. This forms a web that you cannot get out of without admitting to the original lie. And if a customer or investor knows you’ve lied even a single time, they can never trust you again. Once you lose customers, your business is over.
Therefore, it is always imperative that you maintain your integrity, particularly in a start-up situation. The road is long and you don’t want to start it based on lies. The only way to success is through being in it for the long haul. That requires determination and patience. If you give up on your ethics, it means you can be bought for a price. It also means that your company can be swayed or influenced based on money or other favours. Such a company is doomed to failure. One of the best ways to ensure success at a start-up is to keep your integrity close and never bend or break. When you have a reputation that cannot be questioned, people will be lining outside the door to work with you.
Rajh is a serial entrepreneur with ventures in knowledge process outsourcing, hospitality, retail, IT and e-commerce. He has over 25 years of corporate experience and expertise in key roles of leadership, strategy, planning & management. Rajh is especially skilled at developing new profit centers within scheduled timelines and costs while ensuring operational efficiencies through long-term strategic planning. His core expertise includes delivering customized and cost-effective solutions to meet the operational and financial goals of the organization and its stakeholders. Rajh holds an MBA in Marketing from the University of Mumbai.