Honesty in business

Honesty in business: is it the best policy?

Article updated, November 2023.

If you’re running a drug cartel, honesty in business may not be your biggest priority.

Your entire operation is built on deception. Telling a few lies might actually keep you from being executed—buying you some much-needed time until you can find your way out of a sticky situation.

And being forced to dig your own grave in the heart of the Bolivian jungle is probably the stickiest of situations.

I’ll further caveat this post with more truth about telling porkies: it’s impossible not to tell them.

Everyone lies.

If someone says they don’t, they’re lying.

We use falsehoods to save our own skin and the skin of others. We tell people they look nice when they don’t, and we make promises we know we can’t keep:

“I promise I will never leave you.” (Except when I die, or start seeing Trish from work.)

There are occasions when telling a fib is the right thing to do. But we lie and don’t even know we’re doing it. So let’s please try to avoid absolutes and accept that lying is a part of the human condition.

Compulsive/pathological liars.

Ok, these are a different animal altogether. Have you ever met one? I have known a few in my time.

Skilled liars are great storytellers.

And they’re often the hero of the tales they tell. It’s interesting how they always seem to be in the right place at the right time and coincidentally, they have a yarn to match any lived experience you’ve had. Like any work of fiction, their tales are dramatic, full of twists and turns, and utter bullshit.

Take the work colleague who claimed to be a millionaire. He owned a chain of hotels in America, despite working at Sainsbury’s and driving about in a 2008 Citroen Saxo.

Then there’s the guy that always hides £3000 under his mattress “just in case of emergencies” but next month he’s pleading poverty when the gas bill comes in.

There are many of these people walking amongst us so we can presume lots of them are running businesses. Hell, some of these people are running countries (sorry, ruining countries).

What’s the point of deception in business?

Often, it’s to impress.

When a business pretends it’s more successful than it really is, it’s to give the impression they’re a big deal and (hopefully) you’ll wanna work with them.

Avoiding honesty in business.

When you make a conscious decision to deceive, you’re running the risk of being found out.

You’ll be counting down the days when those unsubstantiated claims get flagged because, hello, the internet. Aside from the ambiguity of this post you really should be honest in business.

There, I said it, be honest.

Trying to impress your prospects with half-truths and embellished ‘facts’ will only hurt your credibility in the long run.

Lying will shaft your SEO.

Building authority in your industry is a big thing when you’re trying to drive organic traffic to your place.

Google hates a bullshitter. I’ve talked before about the YMOYL (Your Money Or Your Life) concept. Google assesses how your words and content impact your audience. If you’re selling products and the claims about their benefits aren’t credible, that’s a surefire way to fuck up your ranking.

Unethical or unlawful?

You’ve seen those adverts on Facebook: become a millionaire in three weeks using this failsafe course.

Often these ‘businesses’ will litter their webcopy with a haul of disclaimers. They do just enough to allow them to work within the parameters of the law.

Scarcity selling tactics aren’t illegal either but we know deep down that for a lot of companies, there is no ‘last chance to buy’ nonsense. Then there’s the hiking up of a product price for a week, only for it to drop to the actual price the following, so it can be sold as 50% off. Sofa retailers and supermarkets have been doing this shit for years.

Two certainties in life: death, and the DFS sale. Long after humans have perished and the cockroaches take over, there will still be time to grab a Milano two-seater for £399.

Transparent client process.

If you’re not clear on the way you do things, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically lying (you might be terrible at running a business).

But if you have an honest business culture (where possible, remember what I said at the start of this post) then you’ll be open about your process to your potential customers.

Be a decent human.

Most of us are but some are horrid. And some organisations are downright evil.  

You’re probably honest and your process is transparent. I can quite believe you’re running a business with integrity, a business that values deadlines, communication, and paying people on time. 

And if that is you, and you’d like to work with me, click here to find out how.

Freelance SEO writer

Sarah Wilson-Blackwell

I’m a freelance business content writer at The Sarky Type®. My thang is SEO-informed blurb that sets your words on fire (ablaze with LOLs and engagement not to be confused with real fire that destroys everything in sight).

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