Has your business ever been tested?

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Photo by Mark Heffington via Flickr

Integrity, character, honesty, core values; virtually every business expert on the planet can give you their dissertation on why one or all of these are critical for long-term business success.

When questioned, most business owners will typically respond that these are principles that guide their company.   Equally, most employees will say they subscribe to these same values in the way they conduct themselves within the organization.   And one would have to agree that by and large, this is true.

However, every business at some point will be tested.   Every employee will be tested.   The significance of the test may vary, but the significance of the response does not.   It is in that moment, the level to which you truly honor those defining principles as the owner or an employee, that one learns just how much you will risk upholding them.

A test revealed…

During a recent conversation with the owners of a business, we were discussing one of their key accounts and they made mention of what they referred to as “the incident”.  It was something that had never been mentioned before.    “The Incident” as it turned out, was a test for this business a couple years ago.   And frankly it wasn’t just a test, it was “the test” and the repercussions of their reply had the potential to drastically impact their bottom line.

What if this was your business?

Imagine an employee who works for one of your largest customers proposes a plan to you.   If you agree to the plan you are not only guaranteed continued business, but additional business…lots of it.  Because of the position, the employee of this company has the power to influence the amount of business you are getting and losing this account could be devastating to your company, your employees, and their families.

The proposed plan is simple and agreeing to it would require little effort on your part.  The financial upside for your company is clear; guaranteed continued business, with more on the way.  However, the downside is the great unknown?   The client company is a fairly large corporation, so there could easily be others involved further up the management ladder.   If you contact ownership, will they believe you or think you just have an issue with their employee or department?   If another business agrees to play ball and you don’t, will you lose this account and risk not only the future of your business, but the livelihood of all your employees?   These were just some of the questions and this was the test the owners faced.

Making a decision.…

The owners discussed the situation.  Regardless of the outcome, for them there was only one answer.   And though they had never formally written their core values or posted a mission statement on an office wall, the foundation of the business was built around biblical principles and that is how they guided their business. So at the risk of potentially losing their biggest account they declined the offer and decided to inform higher level management about ”the incident”.  With that, their test was over and now they would wait for the results.

Today the unscrupulous employee is no longer with the company and this business continues to earn a significant amount of their revenue working with this corporation.    It is safe to say they passed their test.   And yes, we all have 20/20 vision in retrospect.   But at some point, regardless of your industry or your customer base, your business will face a similar situation.  You may be directly involved or maybe one of your employees will be targeted.  The circumstances will vary, however it is in the pivotal moment that your business will know what it is like…to be tested.  I hope you pass!

One way to get in front of these kinds of tests is to consciously take the time to figure out what you stand for – uncover your Core Values.

As always, we value your comments and would love to hear about any ‘tests’ that you might have seen or heard of.

Chris Steinlage, Kansas City Business Coach