Dwight D. Eisenhower was a man of many memorable quotes, but one of them is the foundation from which countless businesses built and secured their success:

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang [railroad workers responsible for maintaining a particular section of track], a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

Decades later, Forbes published an article entitled Success Will Come and Go, But Integrity is Forever. Both Eisenhower and Forbes hit the nail on the head.

Of all the businesses in the United States, 99.7% (28.8 million) are small businesses (i.e. businesses that employ less than 100 people).  Of those 28.8 million small businesses, 70% fail within the first 10 years, according to a 2017 article by VisualCapitalist.com.

Why is the rate of failure among small businesses so high?

Although there are countless statistics and articles that tackle the answer to the previous question, many of which are valid and offer a great perspective on this topic, there is one contributing factor to the success of small businesses for which a statistic cannot be calculated: Integrity.

What makes someone support a mom-and-pop operation that carries minimal clout and charges more than the larger organizations that crank out many times the amount of product and services, thus contributing to the larger company’s cheaper price tag? What entices a customer to return multiple times and to recommend a company to others? What helps a company beat the odds and make it past its 10-year anniversary?

The answer: Do the right thing always, regardless of whether or not someone is watching. That is the definition of integrity.

This sounds simple enough until the pressure of sustaining a business, paying employees, and keeping up with changing and growing market demands consumes every moment of the business owners’ mental, emotional, and physical energy. But successful business owners know that consistently demonstrating an ability to make good and honest choices, both in front and behind closed doors, matters.

A company with a clear vision, a noticeable set of values, an understanding of where their product or service fits in the marketplace, and an unwavering commitment to upholding the principles of integrity has a fighting chance of long term survival.

It’s important to note that integrity isn’t something that’s meant to be demonstrated purely when dealing with monumental decisions. In fact, some would argue that integrity is best demonstrated by the interaction a company has with each individual customer. Treating every customer, regardless of the splash that customers will make in a company’s revenue pond as if they are the most important conversation and interaction of the company’s day matters.

When a client feels valued… When a client feels they receive the best of a company’s efforts… When a client believes they could not receive the same positive and consistent experience someplace else… Those are the feelings that turn a first-time customer into a forever customer. Even Albert Einstein knew that “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

Integrity may be difficult to measure with statistics but, perhaps, that’s exactly why it’s so important to discuss. People who feel like a number to a business, aren’t likely to return to that business. So it seems only fitting that one of the biggest indicators of a company’s success shouldn’t be measured with statistics either.

Author: Evelyn Lindell