Not long ago I had the pleasure of attending a conference where the keynote speaker was Andre "Thunder" Thornton. An award winning Cleveland Indian player turned entrepreneur, Mr. Thornton is now CEO of ASW Global. During his keynote he shared what he believes are the 5 keys to business success. Not surprisingly, integrity was one of them. So, why is integrity so important? Having integrity in all of your business dealings and decisions can move your company forward by miles. Operating with a lack of integrity can destroy a business quickly. And that damage is tremendously hard to fix. Consider this - recently Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. had some trouble with their cars. They immediately acted and issued television commercials letting everyone know that they understood they had a problem and were acting to resolve it. THAT was great. They took action, communicated, and owned their responsibility. Unfortunately, shortly after that an internal memo was discovered that showed another side to Toyota - a not so great side. The internal memo uncovered a company that was not concerned with client safety as much as they were concerned with making and saving money. Suddenly the tide turned. That internal memo revealed the true company philosophy - or so people thought. As Don Galer said, "Integrity is what we do, what we say, and what we say we do." When there is inconsistency between those things, people will tend to believe what is said internally as opposed to externally. In an article on CNNMoney.com Anna Bernasek discusses which companies business trusts. She explores what it means to be admired and says this, "Whether you call it a sterling reputation, integrity, or trust, this aspect of a company's DNA can seem like an imprecise concept in the numbers-driven world of business. But for the companies on the list, (of Most Admired Companies) trust and integrity are not just vague terms: They're durable assets with a financial payoff." In any economic climate a business can not afford to compromise its integrity if it wants to be able to compete. We see this very clearly these days. When companies decide to lead with integrity they position themselves at the top of their industry. Product or service, delivery, and cost will come after that. Remember, people do business with people they know, like, and TRUST. When you possess integrity you broadcast trustworthiness. When you don't - well, you don't broadcast trustworthiness; just the opposite. You telegraph dishonesty and people will be less likely to do business with you. I submit that no business can afford to operate in any way other than with integrity. That integrity has to be ingrained in the company's values and goals. When it is, every decision, communication, and action will telegraph integrity to everyone who is paying attention. The competitive advantage is huge and, I submit, necessary for surviving and thriving in our current economic landscape.