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Integrity: The cornerstone to sustained business success

October 13, 2017

By Troy Diller and George Scott

Integrity means standing tall. Integrity means not forsaking your core values. Integrity means doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Can you say that you have never forsaken your core values?

Components of integrity include forthrightness—accepting responsibility, especially when things go wrong; situationally appropriate transparency; being truthful, being respectful, being fair and being honest.         

In business, when faced with challenging bottom-line decisions, it is quite tempting to yield to forsaking one’s integrity. However, such situations provide solid opportunities to strengthen and reinforce one’s integrity. In business, dozens of other people and businesses (employees, customers, suppliers, creditors, and competitors) are watching how you handle integrity-based situations. Examples of business integrity testing can include, but are not limited to:

·   Listening to a customer’s complaint as on opportunity to gain a long-term loyal customer

·   Not holding on to a dysfunctional or disruptive employee out of respect to the other employees

·   Making the tough decisions even if the decision is unpopular

·   Having advisers for areas of knowledge outside your core knowledge

·   Not being disrespectful of an employee in front of another employee

·   Providing value-added customer service

·   Doing the right thing by the customer even when it is extremely tough to do

To a degree, maintaining integrity in every aspect of your business can end up being a business magnet. Think about it. Who do YOU want to do business with?         

Good examples of integrity can be found in two Servo Innovations’ projects. In each there were things that were out of our control. But as we promised to complete a job at the price quoted, we had no option but to honor our word. An expression that is not always used in business today, but one that I was taught from a young age: for every job you do you should be willing to sign your name to it at the end.         

One project was the refurbishment and installation of a wheel base adjuster for an automotive customer. In this project, the scope of supply was defined to take a current system and get it ready for a new model’s different chassis. This included adding a wheel base adjuster and updating safety to current standards. As a side part of the project, the current computer and control system had to be backed up and new parts added. 

This project started off as most projects with several customer meetings. But as can happen, things went wrong in the final stages of the project.           

The computer system was an ancient model and the part required to fix the computer was not available. And the control system itself was obsolete and removed before certified staff was able to ensure all things were properly shut down, logged and categorized. Due to this issue it couldn’t be restarted.

One may say that this was not the fault of the supplier as they surely could not be responsible for systems and situations out of their control. I would agree, but the customer was told that the system would be operational before it was decommissioned. Due to this, Servo Innovations had no recourse but to honor its word, even when it would have been easier to point fingers at the several issues not in the scope of supply.   

We stepped up and found solutions for getting the system back up and running. Countless hours could not be recouped, but the integrity of Servo Innovations remained intact. To this day, we are a supplier for this customer.         

The second project was a refurbishment of an end of line foot tester—a test that is performed to assess the sole of a prosthetic foot insert. Servo Innovations was to update the hardware and software of a machine that was outdated and obtain spare parts. The original supplier of the machine would no longer support the machine. Although this seems like a simple project, the unforeseen reared its ugly head again.         

At the start, all design and project planning was used to ensure the customer would get the system they wanted, including replacing some obsolete motors and drives with more cost-effective ones. This also included using software that was open-natured to allow for future changes.

The project was reviewed with the customer and approved. We began the new panel, installed all components and everything tested out well in our shop. We installed the system on the customer’s site, which can be difficult as we cannot fully test the system to work out any bugs. This is known to cause issues, but again, the customer could not afford to be down for several weeks, so we did the installation on site. 

The first side of the installation went well and the customer was happy. Then the unexpected happened: our team’s software designer/writer got very sick and ended up in the hospital. We continued moving forward, but we informed the customer of the issue because telling the truth is the right thing to do. His hospital visit lasted three weeks, so lying would have cost us integrity and likely the customer. Once he was back on his feet, we achieved 90 percent of what the customer wanted. Then the second shoe fell.         

My software person’s father got sick, he resigned from the project and we had to move in a different direction. This new direction changed the program to a different setup, and the customer ended up running faster than they had ever been able to before. We lost some hours, but in the end we had a better product and will be installing new machines for this customer in the future.          

I will not say that every situation comes out perfect. In these examples the company was pushed to the brink, but I would not lose sight of our integrity. Without integrity I would not be able to stand in front of a customer and honor any quote, even if we make a mistake. It may be easier to tell a lie or place blame elsewhere, but in the end there will be ramifications. My father always said, “Lies can only live in the dark; once you shine the sun on them the truth will be apparent.”             

Maintaining your firm’s integrity pays.

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