The Importance of Having Integrity in Business
February is known to the Nehiyawak (Cree people) as Kisipism or “Eagle Moon.” It was at this time of the year that the eagle would return from the south and was recognized as being the herald of spring.
The eagle is one of the most sacred birds of the Cree people because it carries prayers to the Creator and is associated as being a relative or part of the family. Therefore, the eagle is a symbol for the values that hold families and relationships together, and emphasizes the importance placed on teaching good values to all members of the family unit.
At Naheyawin, we values the skills and tools that each member of our team brings to the table and place strong emphasis on using curiosity as a tool to grow, learn and continue to do the tenacious work that we do. This month, our blog posts will reiterate how we use curiosity in our daily tasks to continue on our journey.
Staying true to yourself and your brand
By Emma Schreiner Vonk
In Hunter’s most recent blog post, he talked about the winter solstice being a time of reflection. The holidays and the new year are a great time to make resolutions (which I’m sure is a popular blog topic at this time of year, but bear with me). I’m not here to talk about new changes - today, I’m here to talk about staying true to the decisions you have made as a business, to upholding the values you set out with your mission and vision, and sustaining your integrity.
What is integrity? Integrity, according to Urban Dictionary, is “doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” My Dad once told me that all we have in this world is our dignity and our integrity. I think I was 15 at the time, so there was probably an eye-roll, like so.
But he was, and still is, right. If we follow what we hold integral to our identity - our beliefs, values, morals - we are better able to be true to ourselves, to others, and to set an example as leaders. But what does integrity mean as as a business?
As a business, integrity is just as important for you as it is for an individual person. A business not only reflects on the owners or founders, but also reflects the staff, clients, and the company’s overall brand. An article from FreshBooks puts it better than I think I could, “Integrity equates to trust. If you can’t trust a company, why on earth would you bother doing business with them?”
They’re exactly right. The brand and image you choose to represent your business is paramount in maintaining a client's trust. They look up to you and hold you to the promises you made as a business. Entrepreneur’s Brian Tracey has learned during strategic planning sessions that executives all agree that honesty and integrity are the foundations of good leadership. How can a business expect to be a leader in their industry if they are not honest? Dishonesty as a business looks like:
Working with clients that cause you to compromise on your vision.
Not being transparent with your staff about changes in the workplace.
Releasing statements that do not match your values.
Some, Unfortunate, Bad Apples
Utilize Social Media
This is a very recent example that graced Naheyawin’s Twitter feed. Kaden Ave Communications shared a blog post about their discovery of Utilize Social Media during research for one of their clients. As a another local marketing agency, KAC was curious and looked into their social media accounts and website. Utilize claimed to have 105 clients but had only three posts on their social media, and their website showcased stock images rather than actual staff. One of the founders of KAC took to Twitter asking their followers and Utilize who exactly they were. Utilize replied, brushing it off as testing their website and accounts before going live. When questioned as to why the testing used graphics claiming these facts and figures, the discussion switched from conversational to defensive. After the discussion escalated to swearing and belittling (and getting no answers), Utilize removed their website and deleted their social media accounts.
While Utilize may have very well been testing their website, the chances that they were spreading misinformation are worrisome. Sure, they may have had 105 clients that were very happy with their work and could have gained new clients based on their graphics that were just meant to be for testing. That sounds amazing! But on the off chance that they embellished the amount of clients they had and used the false images on their social media and website as a means to gain new clients, they are building their brand using dishonesty. Which in the end will have hurt their image more than being honest about their figures in the first place.
In 2013, customers were reporting issues about a popular style of yoga pants piling and appearing sheer. When asked about it, the founder of Lululemon, Chip Wilson, replied that some women’s bodies don’t work for Lululemon clothing and was the reason for the issues with the pants. Frustration escalated among customers when the company then came forward and dismissed the issue as customers not trying on the product beforehand or buying pants that were too small. The company was forced to retract the statement (but the internet never forgets) and issued a recall on the product suddenly deemed no longer fit for their product standards. The company took a hit on their 2013 revenue and profits, and Chip Wilson was forced to resign a month later.
For a business to state that they are an apparel company for “yoga, running, training, and most other sweaty pursuits,” to issue statements that are essentially fat-shaming goes against their efforts of building a community focused on creating a healthy lifestyle. If they had owned up to the change in product rather than place the blame on their customers, they could have issued a recall but retained their revenue with customers willing to exchange the product rather than the company lose customers entirely.
2009 was the year that VW began to come out with a handful of cars that were supposed to beat the competition when it came to emissions. I know when my Mom was looking for a new car in 2011, her brother specifically told her that a Jetta would probably be the best for her needs and be a better option for the environment. Well, seems like Mom either has a date with the shop, a hefty cheque coming her way, or both. VW admitted to implementing software into their models that would circumvent emission control systems, meaning that any testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would show that the vehicles were spewing less harmful emissions when it was in fact quite the opposite. While the models are still considered safe for drivers and their passengers, it is VW’s responsibility to compensate the owners of the affected vehicles and to produce a solution to solve the problem of the excess harmful emissions - a settlement that is going to cost VW $14.7 billion.
This situation has resulted in the termination of executives, a substantial loss in revenue, and a dent to VW’s reputation. Mom had never had a vehicle brand she consistently went to but was happy to have found the Jetta as it suited her lifestyle. I can tell you right now she won’t be buying another vehicle from VW, as there isn’t a reason to trust them to provide her with a vehicle she feels morally comfortable driving, and there are many that agree with her sentiments.
We can see the commonalities between these instances. Promises were broken, out-of-character things were said, and a community was hurt. Companies wound their integrities, and end up losing clients and revenue in the process.
However, there are businesses that do a fantastic job of maintaining their integrity. Clients and sales leads seem to flock to them because of the great reviews and testimonials left by others. Staff enjoy going to their job because they feel appreciated for the work that they do, and feel comfortable that their boss and their team will hold fast to their morals. Forbes’ Martin Zwilling made a list showing the top ways that an entrepreneur or business can show integrity:
Meeting your commitments and keeping your promises
Following a strong moral code
Treating everyone with respect
Building trust, which comes from following the previous point
Some, Wonderfully, Good Eggs
A Canadian born company in 1996, WestJet believes that paying less shouldn’t mean that you get less, with a corporate culture that embodies caring for guests and providing the best guest experience. Their values on their website alone say they believe in honesty, openness, and keeping to their commitments. How much more integrity can you have?
Kidding aside, WestJet is widely known for its great customer service and willingness to go the extra step for their customers. Their Facebook page often receives posts from customers explaining how accommodating WestJet was in changing their flight last minute due to a family emergency or how friendly the staff was overall. Even their missteps, such as providing customers the wrong information about cancelled flights or staff behaving improperly, haven’t been enough to sink their reputation. It’s their willingness to help their customers that keeps people coming back and earns them recognition and admiration for their corporate culture.
Shoppers Drug Mart
This Canadian-based retailer was listed #3 for Best Brand Reputation in 2016. When founded by pharmacist Murray Koffler, he strived to create a national organization that still had the local pharmacy feel. It would seem that his vision was achieved, as this placement was earned due to customer’s in-store experience rather than through traditional marketing. Now part of Loblaw Companies Limited, Shoppers Drug Mart is a part of the team that delivers on the overall company purpose of Live Life Well.
Naheyawin Creative Incorporated
This isn’t a ploy to earn brownie points with the bosses, I swear. I wanted to share with you a personal little anecdote about why I chose to come work with Naheyawin.
My first introduction to Naheyawin was through the lovely Marketing Coordinator, Keltyn, who I actually already knew through university. She was looking for freelance writers to help her with content creation, and after a quick meeting to learn about Naheyawin (who they are, what they do, what their values are), I became a Content Creator for Naheyawin. Fast forward a couple months and two assignments later, and I was offered the position of Junior Content Specialist.
I cannot express how grateful I am to both Keltyn and Jacquelyn for how open they were throughout the whole process of the job offer and helping me to get setup. As this is my first full-time job that uses my degree, I was nervous to start and was worried that maybe I wasn’t quite as cut out for this. Thanks to their transparency, their warmth, and constant communication (I have a LOT of questions), I love the work that I get to do and love being part of a team that carries their personal values as well as Naheyawin’s in all aspects in their individual roles.
Be a business that follows its morals. Be a business that sticks with its choices. Be a business that values its integrity. Your customers and your staff will love you all the more for it.
If you would like Naheyawin to audit your current digital marketing efforts and provide you with a comprehensive strategy shoot us a message!
Want to know more about the life of Naheyawin’s Jr. Content Specialist? Follow Emma on Instagram!