The Asset of Integrity

Integrity: Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.1

Recently, I received an email from a man who claimed to work in a Swiss bank. He said he had “discovered a dormant account with 450 million dollars,” and offered to send me 40% of the total if I provided him with the details of my bank account.

Yeah, right.

Whether they realize it or not, every business has a set of moral and ethical principles that defines it. Integrity is a critical asset of a company’s success.

For example, if management’s primary goal is to make money at all costs, they will be blinded to the needs of their customers. While the “money is more important than people” philosophy may work for a while, they won’t be able to count on the loyalty of their customers for the long term. Even if this company has a high demand, proprietary product, chances are high that their customers will keep an eye out for another supplier with a comparable product so they can jump ship.

Companies with the “it’s all about money” mindset are often perceived as arrogant and self–serving, if not downright seedy, like my “friend” with the 450 million dollar account. Their reputation is a road barrier to trust, instead of a sign of good will.

When you hear the words “China” and “software,” what comes to mind? If you’re like me, you picture hundreds of thousands of copies of Microsoft’s Windows software being downloaded for free and/or being sold for a few dollars by an unscrupulous group of individuals. They’ve taken a product that was developed at a high cost to Microsoft and are pirating it for their own gain. All that’s missing is for the Jolly Roger to be raised.

That’s called stealing.

The lack of integrity is not unique to China; it just looks different over there. In the U.S., one of today’s biggest buzzwords is “identity theft.” You can’t throw papers with sensitive data away without fear that someone might go through your trash, snake your personal information, and use it to steal from you. Or, who hasn’t been seen an ad making fantastic claims for a product that we know it can’t live up to?  

So what are the moral and ethical principles we want to see in our suppliers?

I believe there are four cornerstones for a solid base of integrity: 

  1. Pure motives; the desire to help or serve others rather than harm them in any way. Someone who won’t use what is ours for their own gain. An absence of greed. God calls it righteousness.

    The first thing many new customers want from me before they provide the details of their product is a non–disclosure agreement. What they’re really saying is “We don’t know who you are or if we can trust you. What is your company’s code of ethics really about?” Signing an NDA is probably more a test of whether I will put my integrity on the line by saying, “Yes, you can trust me; I won’t cheat you and I’ll back it up in writing” than about them covering their bases legally. Unless there’s something in their NDA that might be way out of line, (which is very rare), I always sign them immediately.

  2. Honesty; telling the truth. We know that if we ask our supplier the hard questions we’ll get a straight answer. I don’t know of anyone who wants to work with a dishonest company, even if it means the truth isn’t what they want to hear. I would rather be told “The factory messed up and has to remake your order, which will cause a delay in production time,” than “Suurrre… your shipment is going out on time next week with no problem,” only to discover the truth later.
  3. A solid work ethic. Communication is prompt, to the point, and reliable; orders are processed quickly and produced on a timely basis. Outstanding issues are resolved, not swept under the carpet. Mistakes are owned up to and rectified. A company’s work ethic reveals not only competence, but whether they truly care about their customers.
  4. They treat people with respect and care. I have yet to hear someone say, “Gee, I really have a great time buying from companies that make me feel stupid.” It’s amazing how a little kindness can go a long way. My accountant recently told me the story of how welcome an investment firm who handles her account always makes her feel—as she wrote out their name and number for me as a referral. Encouraging words make a difference.

Companies with a base of integrity like the above find themselves with more long term relationships.

In others words, success.

Integrity doesn’t mean an absence of problems. Raw material shortages, power outages, computer viruses and hard drive problems, inflation, strikes at the dock, and supply chain interruptions happen. The key is how the mistakes are dealt with. A company with integrity will do their best to tell the truth, resolve the situation, and take care of its customers.

While there are companies in China (and the U.S.) who lack integrity, there are many who make it their focus. Some of the world’s largest companies wouldn’t have their product made in China if the factories weren’t able to abide by their exclusive manufacturing agreements and take care of their customers. The trick is to find the good ones, which is what we do.

We value integrity, and so do our partner companies in China.

I believe you do, too.

1: Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 08 Feb. 2011.

U.S. Backs Off from Citing China as Currency Manipulator

On February 4, in its bi–annual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department declined to cite China as a currency manipulator. The issue has been a political hot–button as of late, with the House of Representatives passing a bill the fall of last year that would have punished nations who manipulate their currency to an unfair advantage. The bill, which ultimately died when it wasn’t taken up by the Senate, was aimed at China. Some mention was made of a 25% across the board tariff on all product imported from China.

The February 4 report came on the heels of Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S., where he promised to “enhance exchange rate stability.” In political–speak, I believe this means the Yuan will continue to appreciate at a slow rate.

Source: Fox News, February 4, 2011

Words of Wisdom

“A major reason that so many new products fail is that companies create the product because they think it is a great idea. They do this instead of following the tried and true formula: Find a need and fill it.”

Art Sobczak, from his book Smart Calling.

The Exchange Rate

Yuan to the dollar, as of today: 6.55 to 1

Rate when the Yuan was depegged from the dollar on June 19 of this year:  6.82 to 1

Change: .27 (3.9%)

About Us

Since 1991, Global Trade Specialists, Inc. has helped companies of all sizes get their products made in China from manufacturers of quality products. We are an American company who works with three trading groups in China with immediate access to thousands of manufacturing companies. We source most products made from metal, plastic, wood, stone, glass or textiles; from prototype to production. Many of our customers are first time importers; we walk you through the entire process.

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