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After 11 years of business and 11 years of fatherhood, I’ve learned that if you run your business by the same principles you teach your children, you’ll do just fine. I recently wrote an article about some lessons we’ve learned in business, and so many of those correlated with childhood principles, but one really stood out: always do what’s right, even when it hurts.

  • We should do what’s right when no one is looking
  • We should do what’s right when it forces us to admit wrong
  • We should do what’s right when it costs us a little and when it costs us a lot
  • We should do what’s right when it requires more work
  • We should do what’s right when we employ 1 person and 1,000 people
  • We should do what’s right even when it hurts

Like many principles, I enjoy the fruit produced by living this way, but I don’t always enjoy the actions it requires. Doing the right thing hurt as a kid, and it hurts as an adult and as a leader … in fact, I’d say it hurts more, and there’s definitely more at stake.

As a leader, the excuse of no one’s looking, no one will notice, or no one will care is tempting. Each day is full of a hundred decisions, most of them small, and it’s easy to take short cuts. It may go unnoticed by your customer, but you will notice, and doing what’s right is as much for you as it is for others. Your work and your decisions are a product of who you are as a person, and you have to spend a lifetime with that person.

So, what’s required of us when we choose to do what’s right?

  • Be honest when we make a mistake – we don’t get it right the first time, every time. No one does, and that’s why it’s important to recognize when we miss the mark and be honest with ourselves and whoever else our mistake effects.
  • Fix our mistakes – when we make a mistake and recognize it, we should make it right. The longer you wait to correct it, the harder it will be. This sounds simple until fixing your mistake costs you a lot of money or a lot of time. In our line of work, our mistakes are often only recognized by our team – it’s a subtle line of code or a minor color variation, but that doesn’t mean we move on and hope it goes unnoticed. We make it right, at our expense.
  • Be flexible – doing what’s right doesn’t always take us down a straight, direct path. It can require some extra thought and creativity, so we strive to be flexible in working with others.
  • Be humble – whether the mistake was yours, your colleague’s, or your customer’s, a spirit of humility will build bridges and bring you to a solution more quickly than pride ever will.
  • Learn from what hurts – when you do what’s right and it hurts, there’s an opportunity to learn something. We’ve found that the lessons learned help lessen the pain.

Ultimately, doing what’s right is tough work but we’ve found that a posture of integrity and humility will be appreciated, respected, and duplicated.

For us, doing what’s right matters for several reasons:

  • Doing what’s right respects the intelligence of those around us
  • Doing what’s right empowers others to also do what’s right
  • Doing what’s right connects us to each other and breaks down walls
  • Doing what’s right reminds us that we all fail and no one is always right
  • Doing what’s right places a value on teamwork and proves that we are better together

Ultimately, there is something very important at stake. When we fail to do what’s right, we stall progress and disrupt unity. When we fail to do what’s right, we lift a wall between us and our neighbor, and our relationships suffer.

Of course, striving to always do what’s right doesn’t mean you always do what’s right, in every situation, and in that very moment. If you don’t do what’s right the first time, you have a chance to do what’s right the second time. It’s never too late. Always doing what’s right just means you own your mistakes and strive to make them right.

As a company, we remind ourselves that someone is always watching, which is another principle my mom taught me. We all have an opportunity to make an impact and inspire other people’s decisions by the way we make ours, and we take that responsibility very seriously.

No one said it’s always easy, but it’s always right.