Integrity and kindness in business

Patrice Mousseau is the Ojibway founder of Satya Organics, based in Vancouver, BC. In 2017, Patrice won the Startup Canada Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the UPS Demo Day on the Hill for the success and impact of her company and leadership in Canada’s entrepreneurship community.

Integrity and kindness are like oxygen – you can go without them in business but not for long.

Integrity is about consistency in thought, word, and deed. Integrity is about being honest, having a strong values system and acting upon your values through every interaction with your team, customers, and stakeholders – how you make decisions, take action and do business. It is about being genuine and avoiding cheating, stretching the truth, moving on a ‘quick buck’, or getting ahead at all costs. It is a pattern of words and actions that display ethics and emotional intelligence. It is about sticking to the founding principles.

Kindness is based on your own ethics, values, and beliefs. It is about recognizing that everyone you interact with is a whole person and that they have a rich and full life outside of your interaction with them. It’s about what you say and how you say it. The presence of kindness and integrity make employees and customers feel safe and engage more deeply with your company.

How to build a culture of integrity and kindness

It starts with you. Model. Model. Model. Leaders are at the heart of company culture. They eat, sleep, and breathe the core values as well as taking ownership & accountability for mistakes. They are the role models for everyone else. When you treat your organization and employees with integrity and kindness, it has ripple effects on your customers, shareholders, and investors. Care about employees and customer opinions – listen and pivot.

Build a team that aligns with your values. Strong values are recruiting & retention tools. Hire based on values. With the consistent delivery of your values, employees that share them will stay and grow your business and employees that don’t will generally self-select out. As a leader, it is essential to allow your team to fail without fear of being fired or angry reactions or consequences. Let employees know they will make mistakes – it’s how we learn. But teach and model integrity and kindness whatever the situation.

Culture first. ‘Bake your values’ into the day to day operations by embedding them as a code of ethics, monitor it and stand for it from the start. Begin your business with this in mind, as it is difficult to change once you have started.

Build relationships with your customers and investors. Successful businesses build relationships with customers, not just transactions. Sales will follow from relationships, connections, and alignment with values.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The fastest way to destroy a culture of kindness is to mock it and only pay attention to it when convenient. You cannot build it if it’s not innate.

Integrity and kindness are a competitive advantage and differentiator in today’s business world. Employees and customers want to engage with companies that have a strong culture of both. Every entrepreneur needs to bake integrity and kindness into their culture from day one, as they draw aligned individuals, organizations, partners and opportunities to you. They create a fertile environment in which your company can grow.