When your life on earth is over, how do you want to be remembered? What would you like to have inscribed on your tombstone for friends, relatives and strangers to read as they stroll through the cemetery?

As you run your business, lead your department, call or wait on a customer, what one thing should stand out about you. I would challenge you to consider that the single most important quality in life and in business is integrity, and in particular your integrity; for after all, your integrity is the only thing that YOU can control completely.

When I meet with prospective consultants desiring to associate with my firm, I always say to them that their personal integrity and the ethics by which we operate our business is paramount to our firm’s success. Our clients will most likely forgive a technical error on our part and give us a second chance but we don’t deserve a second chance if we compromise our integrity while representing our firm or their business.

Integrity is an attitude and a behavior, how you think and how you act. Integrity is not only demonstrated by what others may see but also what happens behind closed doors. Integrity is humble, not proud.

The recent passing of Jimmy Kanemoto brought to light exactly this point. Mr. Kanemoto was a very humble man, yet a man of great influence and wealth. He financially supported many worthwhile causes in our community and directly influenced many business and political decisions that extended far beyond our city limits. But for those of us who were blessed to know him he will be remembered for his integrity and the way he treated people.

In business terms, integrity means doing what is ethically right and doing it consistently. It means doing what you said you would do and to the best of your ability. Acting with integrity isn’t always the easiest way to succeed in business, but those without integrity don’t succeed. In a recent column I described a local business that I contracted with to move my residential furnishings. Not only had I been treated unethically when it came to finalizing the bill but the integrity of the firm’s management team became blatantly in question as attempts for resolution were made. Soon after, the business declared bankruptcy and closed its doors.

Business owners and managers need to focus on acting with integrity in all employee and business interactions and in every business decision. The message delivered may not always be the most popular or the one people want to hear but a message delivered with integrity will be appreciated in the end. Employees acting with integrity will never need to cover-up for their actions, even if their actions were not fully satisfactory. A passage from the Bible found in Proverbs 10:9 states the “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”

I hope that my tombstone description will one day honestly read “ a loving husband, father, man of integrity, man of God”. How will yours read?