In my opinion the best businesspeople exhibit a deep-seated integrity. They respect their employees, their customers, their suppliers, and above all, themselves.

Let’s assume you start your business today; how do you want to be remembered on the day you retire? When I first meet someone, I look for signs of respect. I search for an underlying sense of values and manners. As I mentioned was my habit when interviewing potential employees, whenever someone met with me at my office at Paychex’s corporate offices and one of my assistants brought them a coffee or tea, I’d watch to see if they thanked the person. If they failed to show common decency by acknowledging the assistant, I would immediately question whether I wanted to do business with them or employ them. At the end of the meeting, if their cup was left on my desk for someone else to pick up or their chair was not put back neatly, I took it as another example of lack of respect.

Too often people are hung up on their own self-importance and dismiss as unimportant people who can’t help them move their own selfish agenda forward. Respect is earned, not given.

I demanded the same level of respect from our trainees. Sometimes I used to sit by the cash register in the Paychex cafeteria at lunchtime and watch our employees coming in and out. I would call people out if they weren’t clean shaven, their hair was messed up, or they weren’t wearing a tie. I’d also watch for whether they cleaned up after themselves and pushed their chair back after leaving the table. I constantly demanded a certain level of basic respect and professionalism from our employees.

I haven’t been CEO there for more than a decade, but if you visit Paychex’s corporate offices today, or any Paychex office across the country, you will notice how clean and tidy it is and that all employees are well-presented. I am convinced you can build a level of professionalism into a corporation’s culture to the point it will last forever, but you have to be committed and lead from the front. It won’t just happen.

In case you are thinking I’m simply a guy with OCD, that I’m a neat freak, or that this is just one of my foibles, let me tell you why this has always been so important to me. Paychex clients expect the highest level of security, accuracy, and professionalism; they deserve no less when they entrust the company with their payrolls and their employees’ privacy. You can’t deliver that level of service consistently, or maybe at all, if professionalism at every level is not part of the organization’s DNA.

Don’t confuse having integrity with always having to be a nice guy or someone who’s easy to walk over. You can be tough, very tough, but you can also be honest and fair. Remember, leading a business to success is not a popularity contest; it’s about gaining respect for the way both you and your company act.

So, how do you want to be remembered on your last day working for your company? I can tell you, a lot will depend on how you begin your first day. Let’s assume you start your business today. It’s important on day one to consider what you want people to think, write, and say about you when you retire. If you’re already in business, or even if you are a senior manager in a company, it’s never too late to take a step back and reevaluate how you are managing yourself and your company.

Excerpted from Built, Not Born: A Self Made Billionaire’s No-Nonsense Guide for Entrepreneurs. Copyright © 2020 by Tom Golisano. Published by HarperCollins Leadership. 

A Self-Made Billionaire’s No-Nonsense Guide for Entrepreneurs.

Paychex Founder, Tom Golisano shares the hard-won lessons from his entrepreneurship journey in Built, Not Born, a guide to growing a company to any size by going against the grain like he did.

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