Ever Heard of Integrity?

in·teg·ri·ty   [in-teg-ri-tee]–noun-adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. I am trying not to use this blog as a place for daily or even weekly rants. I want to write things that I am passionate about and that I take time to think about. This blog post has been rattling around in my head for a while because I've been searching for the correct way to say what I want.

I first want to say that I am not writing this blog to bash the person that I am about to write about in the hopes to embarrass them. I am writing this blog as a warning out there for people. My warning is this-If you do not practice integrity in your relationships, business and life people get hurt.

Now let me tell you a story. Brooke and I were engaged in October 2009 and were looking to get married sometime in May or June. As photographers we immediately started looking for a photographer. Brooke had been bookmarking some of her favorites for years so she already had an idea of what she wanted and I was glad to just let her choose. She narrowed her decision down to a couple and finally decided on one. For the sake of this blog we will call our photographer Joe (not his real name). When Brooke was e-mailing different photographers out there Joe was on the ball, getting back to us right away, offering to go the extra mile and so on. So we were pumped about it. We were going to be in front of the camera for the first time and we were looking forward to it.

Joe showed up. After a short conversation I had some misgivings about Joe, but I didn't really want to think about it. I wanted to marry the girl of my dreams and hope that the work we saw on his site would transfer over to our photos. The first thing I noticed was that Joe wasn't very professional. He was late to places he needed to be at, he was arrogant and the way he spoke to Brooke made me feel very uneasy, but I could tell that he was trying hard so I was giving him the benefit of the doubt and I was just happy to be getting married.

Brooke and I were married on May 31, 2009. We know that it can take sometime to get wedding photos back to people and we don't like when people send us e-mails asking where they are so we were willing to wait patiently. We started getting a little worried around the end of July but we still decided to give it more time. It wasn't until August that we first contacted Joe. He assured us that he was working on them and we would see them soon. Nothing came. Brooke's mom then contacted him and asked for the photos before Thanksgiving. He replied, "They will be there. I promise." Thanksgiving came and went. Christmas came and went. January came and went. February came and went. We had e-mailed and called but never had any response. I then took things a step further and reported Joe to the Better Business Bureau. We finally received an e-mail from Joe's wife apologizing to us and assuring us that the photos we paid for ten months earlier would be there. There wasn't a lot we could do but wait. Finally one day a disc arrived in the mail. Brooke and I were pumped and were trying to look past all the crap we had to deal with. We put in the disc and we are shocked by the quality. Joe had given us images that we, as photographers, would never give to a bride and groom. Eyes closed, out of focus and so on. When Joe was e-mailing us he was telling us that he wanted to get all the photos to his perfectionist quality before he sent them, what we received was nowhere near what I would call perfectionist quality. There were also parts of our paid package that were missing, lots of parts.

My story is getting long, so I will condense. Brooke and I have now been married over a year and we still haven't received everything that we paid for. I send Joe an e-mail once a week telling him to send us what is rightfully ours, but he hasn't responded. I don't think he ever will and I don't think we'll ever get everything we paid for.

So why am I writing all this? I want everyone out there to realize that when you don't practice integrity in your business it hurts people, real people. Brooke and I still haven't looked through our wedding photos again because of the feelings they bring up. While our wedding was totally amazing these photos leave a horrible taste in our mouths. If you are reading this and you own a business, especially a photography business, your job is to add value to the lives of your clients. You need to look at your business and ask yourself these questions, "Am I adding value to the lives of my clients?" "Am I increasing the quality of life?" "Am I practicing integrity?" I don't care what type of business you own, if you can't answer 'yes' to those questions you need to close up shop because if you don't you will just end up hurting people.

As business owners or potential business owners we need to hold our counterparts to a higher standard. If you see someone in your industry treating their customers poorly say something. You might end up saving a Brooke and T.J. out there from a horrible experience. Integrity is such a crucial trait for a business. Practice it daily. I know that as a business owner you will screw up and treat someone poorly or do something wrong, but make sure you are doing everything in your power to fix it. Brooke and I have been late with wedding images before (only a couple of days), but we always try to edit more and give them more if we know that we aren't going to make the date. I've mailed people the wrong shirts before and when I do that I let them keep the one that I made the mistake on. If you find that you are making mistakes, fix them, make it right. Don't just write it off.

Also if you need a lesson on Integrity, look at the words of Jesus through the gospels.