HR & Management

Why it’s important to do business truthfully

5 min read

08 June 2016

If you want to be successful in business, you shouldn’t lie, cheat or steal. Everyone knows that neglecting to adhere to basic ethics will lead to ruin, but simply living up to these expectations isn’t enough.

Conducting business in a fundamentally truthful way means going beyond the essentials and adopting an honest, open, and customer-centric culture. As an entrepreneur, you will encounter challenges and situations as you build your business that may lead you off course, but you can stay truly truthful by following these three steps.

(1) Put your customers first

For most businesses, addressing customer needs is a top priority. In fact, almost every business that sees early traction starts by solving a customer’s problem. But the sad truth is that as time goes by, many organisations make customers’ success less of a priority. 

For some bosses, an honest assessment of their practices would show that their definition of customer “value” equates to maximising the return they can extract from customers. Others don’t see the need to stay on top of customer needs, and instead base their growth on their incumbency or brand recognition, or on offering contracts that bundle in services that aren’t truly useful to customers. 

These practices aren’t sustainable. At some point, either a competitor who can do a better job in meeting customers’ needs will take advantage of the open space, or customers themselves will decide that doing business with a company that doesn’t put them first isn’t worth the trouble. 

During every customer meeting, you should ask for honest and direct feedback on your products, and ask whether or not your customer has any concerns. The next step is to address any issues that might be raised, making swift, meaningful improvements. Because at the end of the day, if your customers are successful, you will be too.

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(2) Pay attention to warning signs and correct your course when necessary

There will be times when you head down the wrong path, even when faced with clear indicators things aren’t quite right. While success requires a lot of courage and the willingness to push past one’s doubts, it also involves honestly considering warning signs, and being prepared to take a step back when needed. This can be difficult, especially when backtracking means going back to the drawing board after investing months or years in setting the direction an organisation is headed down, contradicting bold proclamations or even making difficult staffing decisions. 

The willingness to correct course when truly necessary will make your business stronger. 

(3) Be truthful with your stakeholders, and encourage them to be truthful with you

If you’re an entrepreneur, and you’ve built something that has already made it a little (or a long) way on the merits of your original idea to solve an unfilled need, there will be internal pressure to solve the next obstacle as soon as it presents itself. However, the day will come when you don’t have all the answers, and you will need the help of others to find a solution. The key is to acknowledge that truth, and not be afraid to ask for advice from colleagues, customers and investors. This is why, when putting together a team, it is crucial to include people with complementary talents who can offer smart counsel without losing confidence in the company or the entrepreneur, and who will execute on the company’s vision over the course of many years. 

Putting customers first, admitting to being wrong and rerouting when you are wrong are three ways to ensure the organisation stays on the right track. Observing a deeper standard of doing business truthfully is hard work, but it is also a tremendous asset for any company. It is essential to gaining your customers’ trust and building long-term relationships as a result. It is also what will set any company apart from the competition.

Todd McKinnon is CEO and co-founder of Okta.

Meanwhile, we found that business chiefs need to break a “culture of acceptance” amongst their employees to curb expenses fraud and save over £100m a year.

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