Don’t Be Evil: Avoiding A Bad Reputation

By now most people should be familiar with Google‘s infamous semi-informal company motto, “Don’t Be Evil.” This is a wonderful standard which every company, large or small, should try and hold itself to. That goes for all of you self-employed folks on the path to PIE too.

As you no doubt learned at some point during school, reputation is important. People talk, and almost as often, people listen. It doesn’t matter what’s being said, there is always someone out there who will hear it and will take it to heart. For a bigger company this isn’t as big of a deal. For example, the two biggest gaming publishers in the world, Electronic Arts and Activision, have terrible reputations. They often put out sub-par products, regularly find new and inventive ways to jerk around their customers, and, well, if there’s a boneheaded move that will anger their customer base, chances are they’ve done it with gusto. Twice.

Both are successful billion dollar companies.

They can take the negative response that they get because they’re so huge, and have such wide customer bases, that the vast majority of their consumers either don’t know about the kind of shenanigans they pull, or just don’t care. They’re too big to be taken down by a bad reputation.

Not everyone is so lucky.

For a smaller company, a bad reputation could potentially put them out of business. For the self-employed? A bed reputation is a death sentence. You might as well start updating your resume now. There’s a chance you could work your way back up to being respected, but it is an extremely slim one. You would probably have better luck catching a jackalope and training it to do carnival tricks.

Fortunately, it’s really not that hard to avoid your professional life spiraling down to the point of trying to catch a fictitious creature in order to teach it to jump through hoops. Those three words at the top of the page sum it up pretty well. Don’t be evil.

This doesn’t mean don’t dress up like Skeletor perched atop his throne on Snake Mountain cackling maniacally. Well, I suppose you can. If that’s what floats your boat, by all means, go for it. Those words have a much more subtle meaning in this particular situation. In fact, we’ve discussed quite a lot of it on this blog already.

We’ve told you about properly managing feedback. Responding in a harsh, negative way to criticisms is a great way to end up with a bad rep. We’ve discussed maintaining your authenticity. Claiming you’re going to provide one thing, and then not coming through? That will get you a bad reputation in a hurry. Taking care of business relationships is another topic we’ve covered in the past. If the people you interact with on a professional level think you’re a jerk, they probably won’t be too inclined to continue interacting with you, and that can cost you dearly. Treating your co-workers well falls along the same lines, and is vastly important. How are you supposed to run a business if nobody wants to work with you? Granted some of the self-employed self-starters out there don’t necessarily need anyone but themselves at this point in time, but you might one day. And finally, providing great customer service is perhaps the biggest point of all. If your customers don’t like you and your business, well, you can’t have a business without customers can you?

These are all great ways to avoid earning yourself and your business a bad reputation, and in turn avoid a loss of earning potential and shrinking your PIE down to two-bite brownie size levels. There’s even more advice we’ve already armed you with. Namely using your common sense, and trusting your instincts.

If it seems like an idea might alienate part of your customer base, your co-workers, etc., don’t do it. It really is that simple. Other, better ideas will come. Ideas that won’t cheese anybody off and potentially end up costing you money, instead of making it.

Google definitely got it right. Don’t be evil. Evil leads to profit loss. Be good. No, scratch that. Be great, and the money will flow.

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