EBENI is a voluntary, not-for-profit body and a registered charity, and part of a European Network with colleagues in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scandinavia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
We have aims to assist integrity in business come more to the fore and wish to thank a number of people and organisations.
But we are not primarily interested in business ethics, integrity, fairplay, social responsibility and related areas for the sake of being interested. We are interested because the consequences of behaving with or without integrity has proven to be amongst the most critical elements in either business success or failure.
No firm or body – no matter how long established – can afford to rest on its laurels. A good reputation is hard won and easily lost.
Indeed a good reputation has been likened to an insurance policy – a modest annual investment against the possibility or risk of a significant loss.
A good reputation is worth a great deal in the marketplace, as evidenced by a decline in share price following errors, mistakes or scandals.
The smart organisation recognises that all ‘stakeholders’ contribute to a good reputation.
Employees, customers, suppliers, investors, local communities and other ‘stakeholders’ all require different treatment. Yet it is a combination of their favourable or unfavourable opinions about a firm which results in its reputation.
Perhaps that is why managing one’s reputation involves more than just brand management and PR.
For the vast majority with a ‘good’ reputation, being trusted by customers, suppliers, employees and others is of paramount importance, both for pride in their firm, its endeavours and for the resulting likelihood of continued business success.
For those whose reputation has suffered, sometimes through no fault of their own – another firm in their industry may have given the entire sector a bad name – how they attempt to rebuild their reputation may even affect whether they survive in business or not.
There will always be another category of firm – those with a bad reputation which is fully warranted!
Unfortunately firms who treat their customers with contempt (perhaps from a market dominant position), don’t pay their suppliers, shortchange or take advantage of their employees or have scant regard for the environment or local communities in which they operate, can also be very “successful” in business.
At least in the short term if not always the medium or long term.
And “successful” in terms of profitability, but maybe not by other measures.
The “success” of such firms may be hard to explain, especially as they are likely to be more stressful places in which to work and with higher staff turnover. Employees who have not worked elsewhere may not realise, though, that business practices which result in unnecessary aggrevation for all involved are less than ideal and generally do not produce the best outcomes.
In a truly competitive market, people will not only choose not to deal with such firms again, but are also likely to ‘bad mouth’ them, resulting in a further erosion in their reputation, with fewer customers, suppliers and potentially also future employees electing to choose them.
Fortunately such errant firms make us appreciate the vast majority of firms for whom “exceeding the customer’s expectations” or “dealing fairly with all involved” is the mantra.
Such firms are trusted by their customers, suppliers, employees and others. As a consequence they build up a good reputation and by and large are successful in business, sometimes extremely so.
The rationale of promoting trust as a ‘weapon’ in the armoury of business people of integrity is very straightforward and derived from pure common sense:
• Organisations which conduct their affairs with integrity are trusted.
• Trusted organisations gain a good reputation.
• Organisations with a good reputation are consistently successful.
• The public expects higher standards of integrity from members of professions.
• the link between ‘integrity, trust, reputation and success’ appearing to make sense, and
• a general awareness that trust damaged can be extremely difficult to restore,
trust may not be nearly as prevalent as might be expected.
Trust is at the core of all good relationships – business and personal. It is the glue that holds the relationship together, particularly when times are difficult.
Would you do business with someone you don’t trust?