Last week I attended a meeting of one of our major political parties, which was most enjoyable. Even the speeches were good to listen to, but I was stunned by one line. The line was that ‘we will have to be truthful now’. This was apparently a new concept and while there was some laughter from the audience, but I was stunned. So not being truthful is a recognized way of doing business by political parties?
Most of us are fairly cynical when it comes to politicians and we understand that the truth may sometimes need to be hidden for some future interests. However, I do not believe that this should be allowed to institutionalized. The same applies to us managers in Enterprise Britain. Better not to mention something than to lie about it.
Of course politicians have always talked about supporting small businesses and we have always known this to be untrue. You simply need to read Tony’s Enterprise Britain blogs to find many examples of their liberty with the truth or even downright lies. Even big businesses suffer from this. Lord Adonis said this weekend he was ‘not in the business of bailing out companies that are unable to meet their commitments’ (the Times business section page 3). Unless of course it comes to banks, favoured car companies and MPs who take liberties with their expenses, but it is true when it comes to major rail operators or small businesses.
In my experience I have gone through many ‘sticky’ situations where the truth would have upset the team. For example, when someone was looking at acquiring the company, or when cash was particularly short. However, I do not believe I ever lied about what was going on. In the worst case, when pushed, I would say I could not tell the questioner what was happening, but that I would come clean as soon as I could. I have always come clean, which has given me a tremendous amount of support from the team and from our stakeholders.
The current environment is of course even more difficult for the politicians as it seems the years of playing games with the truth and fooling us is catching up with them. Claiming support for houses already paid off, flipping properties or playing other financial tricks has made all of us even more wary of what they are really up to. Interestingly, you won’t hear politicians say ‘trust me’ so at least they know nobody does.
Running a business requires a lot of trust. Trust from your team that you will look after them. Trust from your suppliers that you will pay them. Trust from your customers that you will give them a good product or service and of course trust from your investors that you will do what you can to maximize value.
Speaking the truth is vital to building this trust. So let’s not follow the example of our politicians, but be truthful and deserving of trust in our business ventures.