“Honesty is the best policy.” Whether you’re just starting your business and establishing your brand, or attempting to rehabilitate it, this saying has never been more true than in 2015.
If anything has ever proved this to be more than a cliché, it’s the 2016 political season. Hillary Clinton was once the assumed Democratic Party nominee for president, but questions about her honesty have dogged her campaign so badly that her approval with potential voters has slipped. This has caused her to not only alter her original campaign strategy of limiting media appearances, but to spend much more of her campaign funds on advertising in an attempt to rehabilitate her image. Her chief Democratic opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in openly declaring his socialism agenda, certainly has political opposition. He is, however, merely by virtue of admitting his socialist positions, perceived as being more honest.
Donald Trump has taken a rather unique tactic in attempting to control the perception of his honesty. He has decided to voice openly what many Americans believe but are reluctant to say out of political correctness fear. The result has been a sizeable group of American voters perceiving him to be honest.
The 3 chief honesty mistakes small businesses frequently make that can rather quickly destroy their brands are:
- Over promising and under delivering. Yes, you may make the promise with the best of intentions. But it’s a lie, nonetheless. When you make a promise while that voice in the back of your head is saying you probably can’t deliver, it will generally be nothing but pure luck for you to keep that promise. It’s a failure to accurately assess your resources and capacity.
- Under promising. One might ask, “Why on earth would any business under promise?” The answer is that generally a business wants to establish a brand of being in complete control. Under promising is better than over promising. But it’s still a lie. A white lie, perhaps. But it can hurt you just as badly as over promising can. Businesses that under promise happen to be enjoying greater volume of revenue than they need. If, however, that revenue goes down and improving cash flow suddenly becomes necessary, customers will be amazed how, all of a sudden, those businesses can do the same thing much more quickly. Clients will conclude that the promise they used to make was just a lie.
- Failure to do exactly what they have promised to do. Frankly, this is a clear lie, intentions notwithstanding. A former anonymous retired executive in the 1960s, perhaps in a Jerry Maguire moment, penned 26 practices that he said were axiomatic to success in business. These 26 practices went the 1970s version of viral among ABC TV executives. One of these practices was honesty. “I know men who, when one tells me he will call me tomorrow at 9:00 am, and I don’t receive that call, by 10:00 am I will send flowers to his home. I will know he is dead.”
Competence and training are vitally important in defining and establishing your brand. But competence and training are absolutely neutralized by dishonesty. At the proverbial end of the day, nothing will ever help you establish, and keep, a solid brand like complete honesty.