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Honesty…a Timeless Value

Business dealings fascinate me. Having a value system that is based on honesty and doing what you say, to me just isn’t that hard. And I don’t think it is just because I am more seasoned in my age that I believe that. Lately, a few situations have come up in business that got me thinking about these things and the values I hold in high regard.

Let me be clear. I’m far from perfect. I’ve made many mistakes in my life and even with my best efforts; I know will keep making them. But I do have a heart to do the right thing and be a man of integrity. I didn’t grow up this way, but I developed core values through my faith and life experiences.

I came from a pretty dysfunctional family. My dad ran a successful sporting goods business. It was a wholesale distributor company. We had a large warehouse and a showroom where people would come in and buy like a retail store, but we had great prices. This was a classic “wholesale to the public” situation.

Naive as I was in business, and in life as a young man, I wondered why there was no cash register, no idea how we knew how much money was taken in, and why employees were paid mostly in cash. This didn’t seem to be how other businesses operated, but I didn’t know anything different.

Once I saw how my family business operated, things I saw when I was growing up started to make sense to me. We had a charge account at the local drug store. It wasn’t like a regular account though.

Our transactions were handled differently. It was the same at the cleaners and other local businesses. It became clear that what my dad was doing all those years was paying all these businesses in cash.

This value system of flying under the radar from the normal rules was all fine for my dad. We lived pretty well, but when he died many years ago…my mom and I were faced with a huge tax liability when the California State Board of Equalization came in and did an audit. I remember it well. We had a high priced tax attorney, and it cost us a fortune to mop up the mess he left us. It was a big life-learning experience about the consequences of doing right or wrong.

A while ago a young person from a supplier company reached out to me via social media. We had a great conversation, and in the end, I agreed to do a one-time business spotlight in FreePromoTips in exchange for a few pieces of the product they sold. I was very clear that this was a one-shot thing and it wasn't what we typically did for our supplier partners.

A couple of months had passed, and we never received the products he agreed to send. I was told the items had been lost although no attempt was made to replace them, or honor what they said they were going to do. Normally I might have just chalked it up to a bad experience, but one of the items was for my 15-year-old son who continued to ask me about this. So I continued to ask this person about it. I was hoping they would honor the agreement we had made.

In a follow-up e-mail he acknowledged, “I didn't hold up my end of the bargain but I am accountable for that.“ He went on to talk about the long history and fine reputation his family business has. I’m sure they have a very nice company, but I struggle to respect or trust someone who doesn’t do what they agreed to do. To his credit, my son did receive the one piece he was looking forward to. It seems, however, I will never receive the few items I was promised. I chalk this up as another lesson learned about character and honesty.

We all learn life lessons from "real world" experiences. The point of this rant is to remind us all how simple and important it is just to do what you say you say you are going to do. As I reflect on my own family history, I’ve learned lessons about integrity. I don’t want to leave the same legacy to my son that my dad left me. I try, to the best of my ability, to be honest and do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. And I want my son to know that he should live by good values also.

What does your word mean? In today’s crazy marketplace, I believe business integrity and your word is everything. I think we all can relate to suppliers not doing what they agree to, or distributors who tell suppliers the payment is on the way when it’s not. We demonstrate our integrity daily. Honesty is a timeless value none of us should forget.

© 2012 Jeff Solomon, MAS


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