According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “Integrity is the basing of one's actions on an internally consistent framework of principles. Depth of principles and adherence of each level to the next are key determining factors. One is said to have integrity to the extent that everything he does and believes is based on the same core set of values. While those values may change, it is their consistency with each other and with the person's actions that determine his integrity.

“The concept of integrity is directly linked to responsibility in that implementation spawning from principles is designed with a specific outcome in mind. When the action fails to achieve the desired effect, a change of principles is indicated. Accountability is achieved when a faulty principle is identified and changed to produce a more useful action.”

Therefore, integrity is that framework (written down) that determines the ethical code for a business. It is said that a business has integrity when it is strictly governed by a clear set of moral principles that identifies every action and/or possible action with each of its business relationships. That Code of Ethics is necessary to identify all possible legal and ethical issues that may arise in the business.

When an issue arises that is not on the list, the first question should be, “How do we deal with it in view of our Code of Ethics?” With the guidelines already laid down, “What should we do to maintain the good relationships with the way we treat our customers, suppliers, and coworkers?” The reality of maintaining and/ or improving these relationships is tantamount to any other consideration, such as making money, enlarging the business, or doing more work.

A well defined Code of Ethics, including the framework of integrity that holds it all together, is a key to a successful business. Today's businesses are built on relationships. In order to build and have a successful business, the owner must have good relationships with the people he does business with. Understand the company's Code of Ethics, live by it, and teach it to the employees on a daily basis.

The industry you work in and the surrounding business world will take notice. They will automatically realize that there is something different about your company and the way it does business.

Make sure that the officers of the company fully understand the Code of Ethics, and that it is emphasized every morning in the meetings with them. See that everyone, on every level in the company, knows the Code and understand the importance of it.

Teach it in the monthly foremen and superintendents meetings. Cover it in the operations and safety job meetings. Make sure everyone has some kind of reminder of it in card or handout form. It is the crux of all issues because when people working together are concerned with treating others in a fair and equitable manner, they will be watching out for each other's safety.

Your Policies and Procedures should include a comprehensive Code of Ethics, emphasizing the treatment of everyone, from the janitor to the president, with the highest regard and respect. Employees will feel like they belong to and are an important part of the whole.

A survey several years ago contained a long list of things that management thought employees wanted most, and respect was at the top. Money was a good way down the list. When employees feel like they are respected by management, they work harder, are more diligent in their responsibilities, and are more dependable. The company's Code of Ethics will generate this return.

The framework of integrity outlined in the Policies and Procedures is the glue that holds it all together. The moral and ethical principles, structural soundness of moral character, and truthfulness and honesty make up the structural integrity that a company lives by.

The ethics of every company, good or bad, come from someplace or someone. Most likely it's in the owner's mind. Writing it down as a policy makes the information official and available to all.

Even an owner will not be as quick to bend the rules if he knows that everyone is watching and that there is a policy about to be broken. Employees and business associates alike will have more respect for an owner who is not afraid to have a written Policies and Procedures that includes a Code of Ethics.

Treat people with respect and they will want to do business with you.

Ron Willis owns Masonry Estimating and Consulting Services ( He can be reached at 817-822-8595