Do the decent thing – It makes good business sense

28th June 2017

Posted In: In Your Opinion

There’s an episode in the classic sitcom Frasier where Martin – Frasier’s ex-cop father – is trying to persuade his son to tell a ‘white lie’ in an upcoming divorce case. If Frasier tells the truth, his brother Niles will get royally – and unfairly – screwed over by his vindictive ex-wife, but if he lies then Niles will get the settlement he deserves. Black and white? Not to Frasier – it may be a good cause, but it’s still a lie. Martin continues to badger him, pointing out that nobody would ever know he was lying.

“That’s the whole point!” Frasier finally explodes. “Ethics are what we do when no-one else is looking!”

It’s a great (and hilarious) scene that to me sums up the definition of integrity: doing the right thing no matter what; behaving with honesty regardless of any dilemma or conflict; having a moral compass that guides us at all times.

For most people, our personal lives and business lives are forever intertwined. Treating people equally and with respect demonstrates our integrity, whether those people are family, friends, colleagues, clients, suppliers – or complete strangers. Integrity enables us to build honest, trustworthy relationships in line with our personal and professional values.

Words: Evelyn O’Toole, Founder & CEO, Complete Laboratory Solutions (CLS)

Trust issues

In the last few years, many stories have broken that put the spotlight on integrity, or lack thereof – corruption and deceit in politics, doping and match-fixing in sport, data compromise or regulatory violations in business. In many cases, scandals have fatally undermined the integrity we once associated with an individual or an organisation and left us wondering: can we really trust them?

In the digital age, where reputations can be shattered in a matter of a few hours, acting with a lack of integrity can cause untold damage. For businesses in particular, ‘negative news’ can damage brand value, alienate shareholders, demotivate employees, undermine morale, and impact on profit… to name but a few!

Integrity has always been important to me as a businessperson. I was brought up to “do the decent thing” – make the right decision and treat people with respect and that is how I do business. Since setting up CLS in 1994, integrity has become ingrained in our company culture, “integrity without compromise” is our company tag line and it’s at the core of CLS.

Standing up for honesty

Okay, but what does that mean on a day-to-day level? More than anything, it means being honest – something I’m very big on. On a daily basis I try to be honest and open with my team, share my skills and experience, stand up for what is right and constructively oppose anything that I believe to be wrong.

I encourage my team to do the same, to talk openly and honestly about issues or problems, and work together to find solutions that work for our clients. How we manage and process data is vital to our business and the quality of the work we do. Our industry is heavily regulated, we can’t cut corners and we don’t want to, over promising and under delivering isn’t part of who we are as a company.

As an ambassador for CLS, I know that this starts from the top and I try and exhibit behaviour that reflects our brand on a daily basis.

Right people, right company

Over the years, integrity is something I have always looked for in the recruitment process. In fact, our growth from one employee (myself) to 140 people has been down to selecting the right person, not just for the job but for the company. We pride ourselves on having an extremely diverse workforce, with each person bringing different skills and attributes to the company.

For example, one of the things that makes us unique is our ability to supply analysts on contract who can work at the client’s own facilities, away from our own laboratories. This requires a high level of trust as we need our people to become, essentially, part of the client’s team. Knowing that they are steeped in our values, we trust our people to make the right decisions at all times.

There are risks in every business and every walk of life. Things can go wrong that you have no control over; that aren’t your fault. In my experience, though, the more you stick to your principles and values, the less is likely to go wrong. Aligning yourself with people and partners who share those values is another way of lessening the risk. Behaving with integrity isn’t always easy but I believe that it pays off in the end – always.

(Evelyn O’Toole is the current recipient of WMB Businesswoman Award 2016 and will be speaking at our annual conference in the Shelbourne Hotel on October 2nd, 2017. You can find out more here).