No one likes to be lied to or being cheated. We all choose to not do business with dishonorable companies, whether they are mechanics who "fix" things that are not broken or they are professionals who simply don't tell us the truth. Our present culture seems to put a low price on truthfulness, perhaps because it is often easier to deal with situations by covering issues with lies.

We don't call them lies - we characterize them as "creative renderings of events". There are various justifications for not being honest - we want to protect them, we don't want to look bad, it won't hurt anyone, it could cost us the order or the promotion, the ends justify the means, it's not that important, no one will ever know.

The funny thing about the truth is that over time it always manages to surface. The persons you have lied to find out. Your credibility and the credibility of your company suffers when it comes to light that you weren't honest. The very thing you wanted to protect often takes a hit when the truth comes out. Over time people form their opinions of you and the company you represent. Lack of honesty tarnishes that image and will cost you business.

Transparency and honesty does not mean that you disclose all of your company's proprietary information. Many things in business and in life need to remain private and are not other people's business. There is nothing wrong with discussing these things with simple disclaimers such as, 'we don't talk about those things', 'I'm sorry, but that information needs to be kept private,' 'I'm not in a position to share those things.' This approach lets the other person know that you respect the truth while remaining quiet on out of bounds information. You retain your credibility and integrity.

A common reason for dishonesty is to cover up a mistake in hope that the consequences of the mistake will simply go away. Differentiating yourself and your company necessitates a different approach in dealing with mistakes. Admitting mistakes and dealing with them "head on" is the best approach, especially for the long run. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes; it's a part of the human condition. Confess that a mistake was made and do what is necessary to correct the problems caused. Dishonesty mixed with mistakes is a formula for exasperating the results of the mistake.

The truth of the matter is that people want to do business with honorable people and honorable companies. Building that trust can only be accomplished by adoption of the simple principal: Always tell the truth. Decide to make this an important part of your corporate culture and your personal creed. People will notice and honor you with their business, confidence and trust.


Michael Bell is a 38-year veteran of the woodworking industry. He was deeply involved in the two-year project of melding the AWI/AWMAC Quality Standards Illustrated with the WI Manual of Millwork which resulted in the new Architectural Woodwork Standards. In addition to his work for AWI, he serves as a Woodwork Inspector for the American Arbitration Association. Bell studied Design at Southern Illinois University in the early 1970s under the noted futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. He has conducted numerous seminars for national and regional CSI and AIA meetings on the subject of specifying architectural woodwork and on the Architectural Woodwork Standards. He is also a member of the AWI Speakers Bureau and presents AWI Advanced Estimating Seminars. Bell is Director of Estimating with Allegheny Millwork & Lumber of Lawrence, Pa.

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