Dan Heffernan

The Importance of Integrity in Business Decisions

Back in the 1990s, I worked in technology sales and service in a developing country. The Requests for Proposals we received for technology needs (hardware, software, networks, training, support) went to a number of competing companies, one of which was owned by a powerful political regime in the country at the time. Upon submitting our bids, we were regularly dismayed at how this competitor could underbid us, given that we were dealing with tiny margins. It turned out that this competitor did not have to pay import duties on any imported hardware due to their political connections. They also paid a mole inside our company to send them a copy of our bids before they were submitted.

When we discovered the first problem, i.e. that we had to pay import duties and they didn’t, we realized we’d have to lower our profit expectations. Or lose.

When we discovered the second problem, that of the mole inside our company, we told him he’d been discovered and fired him.

Then, one day, a respectable-looking gentleman in his 60s appeared in my boss’ office and informed him that we were in 2nd place on a particular competitive bid, but that he had both the knowledge and power to get us into 1st place to win, if we were willing to pay his price. My boss, without hesitation, informed the gentleman that this was not the way we did business and politely invited him to leave. The gentleman smiled and said, “you just don’t understand how the game is played, do you?” and left.

I grew a bit cynical living in that developing country. Some people have no scruples.

Unfortunately, however, lapses in integrity are not limited to developing countries. In the 22 years since we moved back to “developed” countries, we have been repeatedly amazed by decisions made for political gain, greed or power, and I’m not talking about decisions in the political sphere. I’m referring to business decisions made inside privately or publicly held companies and organizations.

What happened to integrity? Did it become unfashionable at some point? Did I miss the revolution?

Our company takes integrity seriously. Our clients know that this is the case and feel completely comfortable doing business with us as a result. We won’t lie, cheat or steal. This not only attracts clients, it attracts talent. Integrity breeds integrity, and by the time a new employee has spent a month or two here, they know what makes AdvantageCS tick. And it’s not political gain, greed or power. Certainly it’s profits! As an old boss of mine used to say, “we have to make a buck.” But not profits at the expense of our integrity.

I am familiar with numerous situations at other companies where business decisions were made which lacked integrity. In many of those situations, the decision made came back to bite the decision-maker. For example, a decision to go with a software solution that doesn’t necessarily meet the requirements but is trendy or popular. We see this all too often. Once the implementation of said software solution begins, the buyer finds out that what they bought and what they need are miles apart, and it’s going to cost 3 times what they budgeted and won’t be exactly what they need.

Sometimes I just want to shout from the mountaintops, “Do your due diligence!” And exercise integrity, please.

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