To Thine Own Self Be True

b2ap3_thumbnail_trueThere will come a time when your principles and purpose will be put to the test, both personally and professionally. In fact, when you’re running a small business the two can almost be interchangeable.

The temptation may be to keep silent on an issue you know is wrong, or to not speak up when you’ve made a mistake. Maybe the customer will never know, after all the chances are pretty good they won’t.

However, you will. The next time it will be that much easier to “make an exception”, and the next time after that it will be even easier until it’s a habit. Then you’ll be like I was one upon a time, trapped in a spider web of lies, unsure who you told what to and didn’t tell to someone else.

This is the trap when we don’t operate with integrity. Integrity means more than just honesty. It means being utterly true to oneself, being “Undivided”. An integer can’t be divided. You can’t operate two-faced and still maintain integrity.

Recently I came under fire from my worse critic and most stalwart defender: myself. I’d kept silent on an issue a customer was having with an outside vendor. They didn’t have money for more of my services and had chosen a much cheaper solution which, when I’d glanced over their portfolio, seemed like a good deal.

I should have questioned the niggling voice in my head then, when I’d known no designer could make living money by charging such low prices, but I brushed it off and gave the go ahead.

Later, I realized the depth of my mistake when their design seriously hampered the SEO of the website by removing a huge content portion, the blog, from the site onto a free blogging website instead. I was mortified, both that someone would do this without educating the customer on what the effects would be and that I’d not caught on to the fishiness of the ‘deal’. I didn’t know what to do. Technically this customer wasn’t working with me anymore. Besides, it was her website after all. She was welcome to hire whomever to do whatever to her website.

So I kept silent. Then I wouldn’t have to get involved.

But every day at some point my brain would go back to this problem. To the fact this customer, who was no longer even paying me and who couldn’t really afford me to begin with, was in trouble.

I’ve been stalwart in my declaration that I don’t treat customers like one-and-done money bags. That I want to be there with them for the whole life of their marketing and treat them like family. Well… family doesn’t keep quiet when someone is being hoodwinked. Family admits their mistakes.

So, after putting it off for a whole week, I wrote an email to this woman, explaining my faults, my mistake and what it meant to her company. I gave her free advice on alternatives or the best case scenario given her current situation. I asked forgiveness for my transgression.

I’m not going to tell you how it worked out, because that’s not the point here. There will be times where admitting mistakes will turn out poorly for you, when doing the right thing will still blow up in your face. However, when you are true to yourself and maintain your integrity, it will show in how you walk, how you talk, the relationships you build. You will be happier, more attractive, more engaging and a better marketer when you don’t have some secret sin lurking over your shoulder, guilting you into a slow death.

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