This episode of the Voice of Hope Podcast is a bit different from our normal Bible Study material. We had the opportunity to present a number of businessperson’s breakfasts in April 2022.
In this presentation Mr. Byler takes an in-depth look at what integrity means in life and business. Enjoy!
Enduring integrity—what’s integrity? In order to talk about it, I had to know exactly what it was, and it is: adherence to moral or ethical principles; or the second meaning was: the state of being whole, entire, undiminished; to preserve the integrity of an empire, for example.
So I looked at that, and I was stumped because integrity, by definition, means enduring. Like, stated in the negative: if it does not endure, it does not have integrity. So I wasn’t sure how to talk about enduring integrity, because if it has integrity, it’s enduring, and so it seemed to be the end, but the second part, the pitfalls of success, that’s something I can bite into.
Understanding Success and Integrity
But in order to understand that, we have to see what success is, and a key difference between success and integrity is that your success and my success might look really different, but integrity looks the same to everyone. And the reason is, success is when I reach my goal.
So, let’s say I want to hike 10 miles before 9 am. So, if I go out and I hiked 9 miles, 10 miles, for 9 am, I reached my goal; I’ve had success. But, if my goal was to shoot a turkey before 9 am, and I just hike around for 10 miles, I have I’ve accomplished the same thing, but have not reached my goals, and so, therefore, I’ve not had success. So, success really has a lot to do with the person that is is experiencing the success or lack of it.
You know, if I say that I like a song, that tells you something about me, tells you what I like, tells you what’s inside me. But if I say, “This is a good song,” then that means that it is quality, it is good according to some standard, has nothing to do with me.
So that’s a difference between “I like it” and “it is good,” and success and integrity are the same way. So goals have to do with me, what I want out of life, while integrity has to do with a set standard. So success is defined by me. Integrity is defined by absolutes or God. So, I think it could have been called enduring success.
So, if success is reaching my goals, I’m assuming that this group has healthy goals, because success in reaching the wrong goals might be worse than not actually having goals, because you wind up where you don’t want to be. But did you know that winners and losers both want the same thing, and yet only winners reach their goals?
Five F’s of a Healthy Life
Now I’m part of a business peer group. And, there we learned that there’s five parts to a healthy life, it’s: faith, family, finance, fitness, and friendship. So, in order to have a healthy life, all five of those need to be in place. Because if I have a goal that doesn’t encompass all of those, I’ll probably wind up not being happy.
Because if we look at failure in success—let’s say that I have a goal of having 10 million dollars. And so, what if I reach my goal? I have success, but I lost my family, and I lost my health in the meantime. How happy am I going to be? And if I lose, you know, my faith, that’s another one of the F’s. But lose my family my faith—how likely is it that I’ll plunge into despair and lose my fitness? I’ll overeat and self-indulge, and if I die of a heart attack alone and godless, but I reached my goal of a net worth, I’ve had success, right? But it wasn’t a good goal, so that’s a pitfall of success.
So if any of the five F’s are missing, we have not won on a personal level.
Now, business failure—there’s so many ways to fail. If you ever went deer hunting, you know what I’m talking about. There’s one spot where you want to hit, and then there’s a lot of space all around, and somehow, it’s easy to find those other spaces.
And, you know, business life is a lot the same way. There’s a lot of ways to fail, and I’m sure we’ve all seen businesses fail. But there’s two that I was very close to that I’d like to tell you about briefly.
The Leading Business
The first was a business that had been prospering. It was growing by leaps and bounds; it was really pretty much a leader in the industry. And back in ’97, I think he had $1.3 million in net profit. Back then, that was pretty serious money. These days, it’s still a lot, but not as much. But it wasn’t just one year; it was on the heels of other good years.
So he was doing really good, a lot of profits, and yet he failed. And by failing, I mean, he went out of business. So what happened? See, he ran a negative business. He won through threats and force. His employees didn’t like him. They didn’t like each other.
His vendors didn’t like him. His customers didn’t like him, but he was so big and strong that he overpowered everyone—until he stumbled. And then everyone was happy to take a bite out of them. And 10,000 little bites is enough to slow even the fastest, and he went down.
He had stood on everyone that was around him, and no one pitied him as he went from business owner, to being an employee, and kind of a crummy employee. So yeah, the goodwill is—economic goodwill is an invisible asset. It doesn’t show up on balance sheets, and it can’t be purchased; it has to be earned.
Basically, all the excess value of a company, the stuff that isn’t property, equipment, and inventory, goes into goodwill. It’s the company’s reputation for quality, consistency, value, customer service, things like that. The trick to economic goodwill is to understand that there’s this invisible asset that can play a huge role in profits. Like, Coca-Cola is able to charge more for carbonated water than oil companies can charge for gasoline.
I mean, that’s goodwill. It doesn’t make economic sense unless you understand the value of the brand, the value of the relationship it has with its customers. And it’s the same story for like Harley Davidson, Tiffany’s, Hershey, companies like that. Those companies that have great relationships with their customers. And these powerful brands—it’s largely due to the goodwill that’s on their balance sheets that is invisible to everyone else.
So, companies that have the ability to grow their earnings over time without spending as much money on hard assets are considered capital-efficient, and the ability to be capital-efficient is tied to goodwill. So if you understand that concept, you have a huge advantage over other businesses.
The Booming Business
Now, the second business I would like to tell you about was ‘riding on a rocket ship.’ They were doing so good. In 2008, most of the shed industry took the big hit. A lot of builders that we were delivering for lost 50- 75% of their sales. But not this company, they grew 300% that year.
They were just doing so many things right. Had the charisma, the talent, the energy. You could just feel it when you looked at their brochures, when you showed up at their place, and they were growing by leaps and bounds, and then the payments started coming in slower, and then they stopped entirely, and then they filed for bankruptcy.
So what on earth happened? Well, there were a lot of things, as there always is, but I was close enough to see a couple items that other people might not have.
See, there was two brothers in partnership, and, as long as they were getting along well, they have a lot of energy to pour into the business, it is really doing good, but then they started butting heads, and it got pretty serious, serious enough that they only communicated through their attorneys, and they’re in business together. And the more their focus was on fighting each other, the less their focus was on serving their customers. And it wasn’t like, just, one day, everything changed.
It was just a little by little. And so to them, it was less obvious to someone that was watching because it’s, you know—those little changes show up more to people who haven’t seen you in a while.
Like, to me, there’s never one day that I went to comb myself, and like, poof, there was my hair. It was just, a little left, a little over time, but people that haven’t seen me for 20 years, they see a difference. I’m used to it. So that’s how it was for them.
But the employees, you know, as the bosses fought, the employees got a little worse, and the better ones started leaving, and what had worked just didn’t work quite the same, and the focus wasn’t on business, and the rocket ship crashed to earth, and I personally believe it was because of the two brothers fighting.
So it’s teamwork. Have you ever heard the phrase, “He isn’t pulling his weight?” Where that comes from is a horse and a wheeled cart. A horse can pull its body weight over long distances, so a good horse can pull his weight. So, like a 2,000-pound horse can pull a 2,000-pound cart.
And so, if you have that—so you’d hook two horses together, you would think that you have two 2,000-pound horses. Each can pull his weight, so you should be able to pull 4,000 pounds. It makes sense, right? You just hook more of them together. But it’s actually not true.
Two horses working together can pull three times the weight of a single horse. So instead of four thousand pounds, a good team, or just simply two horses hooked together, can pull six thousand pounds. But if you have a match team that has worked together for a while, [they] could do even more; they can pull eight thousand pounds.
So that’s called synergy. It’s when the combination of the parts are greater than each individual part added together. It’s a beautiful thing, at least when it’s working for you. But when it’s working against you, it’s just as true. A team of horses that’s fighting is going to get less done than one horse working by itself in peace.
So a team of brothers who worked together for a long time and knew each other very well, if they start fighting, you know, you would know just the trigger points to say just to tick them off, and it got worse. Or how about a husband-wife in disagreement? It’s a big deal, teamwork, synergy.
Either you benefit, or you suffer, but nobody goes without it. So, in business success, the five F’s might be a little different, but they’re still similar.
A Rich Mindset
A rich mindset tries to build relationships based on trust, shared values, and mutual respect. People with a rich mindset help others and cultivate relationships, not expecting anything in return.
A poor mindset thinks, “I scratch your back. Now, you scratch mine.” And you know, when you get into a relationship like that, somebody does you a favor, but he’s expecting something to return, and that’s fair, right? But when you just give, it feels very different.
It’s a mindset.
The Giving Business
Now there’s an older fellow I know, a shed builder from Lancaster County, who had his brother-in-law for an employee, and right in the busy time of the year, his brother-in-law told him that he’d like to quit, and he’d like to start building sheds, and he took his son with him, who was also an employee.
So it was a tough blow, right in the busy time, and left a big hole. It was a struggle to keep after orders. Did it feel good to him? He says, “No, not at all, kind of felt bad.” And then, three years later, the brother-in-law’s shop burned.
And this prior boss, my friend, told him that they’re welcome to use his shop at night to build sheds, because they’re not using it at night anyhow. And it is really interesting seeing that. But how’s that for a rich mindset? Giving without expecting anything in return, and to someone who didn’t deserve it. But, by the way, the friend, that the business that my friend has, that the one who lost the employee, that business has prospered like very few in Lancaster county. And just this last winter, 20 years later now, the brother-in-law decided he had enough, he wants to shut down, and my friend bought his property and business. And I mean—it’s a mindset thing—has its rewards.
So Andrew Carnegie was a steel miller from Pittsburgh. He was one of the wealthiest men ever. Right now, Elon Musk is making news because he bought Twitter; he’s the world’s richest man. But I think Andrew Carnegie, when he sold his business, I think he got what would be the equivalent now 450 billion, something like that. So he was pretty rich. But this [example] was before he sold his business.
I’m not sure on the exact ratio, but I think it was about half of the world’s millionaires or maybe half of the US’s millionaires were working for him as employees. That’s a dramatic compilation of wealthy people, and somebody asks him, “Mr. Carnegie. How on earth did you hire 43 millionaires?” And he smiled a little he said, “Well, none of them were millionaires when I hired them. And then the reporter asked, “What did you do to develop them to the point where you could pay them enough money that they became millionaires?” And Carnegie taught a big lesson with a couple of words, and he said that you develop people exactly like you’d mine gold.
See, when you go to a gold mine, you move tons and tons of dirt to find an ounce of gold, but you don’t go in there looking for the dirt. You go in looking for the gold. Yeah, I mean, it’s so easy for me to see the dirt, but I’ve been to gold mines, and I see, you know, it’s two grams, two grams a ton, three grams a ton.
That’s a good ratio, but a gram is so little, and they’re running a ton of ore through. So in a gold mine, you’re dealing with a whole lot more dirt than, you know, the people that I associate with. It’s more the other ratio, where they have a lot of gold and just a tiny bit of dirt.
But it’s easy for me to focus on that dirt.
Strategy: Peer Groups
So, another part of being in business—you know, this is not a sales pitch for a mastermind group or business peer group, but it’s very valuable. Andrew Carnegie was part of a mastermind group, and it had a lot to do with his success. I mean, you look at the most successful people, whatever it is.
You know, if you look at a runner, a lot of times, they’re part of running groups. So if you’re not a part of one, I would encourage you to join one. It just makes life so much easier. Even my wife has a group that she meets with every month. It winds up being a background program that operates while we’re at work, and it just makes a lot of things easier.
Strategy: Personal Development
So, in summary, remember that only strong people can build strong communities. It’s like if people get married—if you have a really wounded person, who gets married, the marriage is going to struggle.
And so, if we want a strong community, if we want strong businesses, we need to be strong people, and we need to do what it takes to have health. And that health comes from having the five F’s balanced faith, family, fitness, finance, and friendship. The chain always breaks at the weakest link.
So what is it that you need to focus on today? There’s many parts to a business, but it’s hard to prosper without personal health, goodwill, teamwork, the abundance mindset, and the ability to mine gold in others. So there’s a big difference.
You know, you hear this thing about: you want to hit the target. But when you shoot a gun, when I shoot a gun—the guns that I have, I shoot, and it’s done. Wherever I was pointing is where we hit. But see, in life, we’re guided missiles. God allows course correction. So, if we see we’re off course, we can correct; and it’s not over the moment that we fire the gun.
So there’s a business peer group that I’m a part of, and I have some brochures along; if anyone’s interested, I’d be happy to pass those out.
Best wishes as everyone finds success—whatever that looks like for you, and thanks for allowing me to share.