Living With Integrity

by Patrick Liew on June 18, 2011

Once upon a time, I was a ‘robber’.

I joined a gang. We planned a robbery. It was well executed. We got away with the loot.

The police never caught up with us. We went scott free until today.

You are the first to hear this confession. Can you keep this a secret? My friend told me it is not him – but the people he told that cannot keep the secret.

This incident happened when I was 6 years old. Ha! I was invited to join a group of kids who were not much older than me. They had planned to rob a kachang puteh man.

This was a peddler of all kinds of nuts. He would sell them through a push cart and would pass my kampong (village) every night.

On the night of the crime, we hid in a monsoon drain. We waited until the peddler passed a dark spot underneath a tree.

A signal was given. We jumped out of our hiding place and charged towards the push cart. 

The plan was that every one of us would grab a handful of our favorite nuts before jumping across another drain. It was an escape route the peddler would find a lot of difficulties to follow and catch us. Besides, he would never leave his push cart alone.

The plan was almost foolproof. The only problem is the world is not made up of fools.

I had grabbed a handful of my favorite cashew nuts. Just before grabbing another handful of macadamia nuts; my other favorite, the peddler caught hold of my hands. 

I could never imagined the peddler would respond so fast and was so strong. I tried as hard as I could but I could not free myself.

I did what I knew best. I burst out crying.

I thought my life would end soon. That was one of the closest I ever got to experiencing hell.

I then did the next best thing. I screamed for my mother. 

That was the first and the last time I was involved in a bad business.

It was much later I got involved in the business world again. By then, I had decided that I would run my business lawfully, ethically and honorably.

You see, after graduating from my studies, I wanted to be involved in charity or community services. I wanted to help people with problems and encourage them to live a better life.

I decided that before becoming a social worker, I would like to have more experience in the business world  and to do so within a short period of time. I decided to become a salesman first.

However, my friends told me I would have to lie, cheat and do all kinds of bad things as a salesman.  And that really frightened me.

I was one of those people who cannot sleep if I did anything wrong. And I really loved sleeping too much.

I could sleep by the count of ten. My wife would tell you before my back hit the bed, I would be asleep.

When I became a salesperson, I therefore would be very conscientious to make sure I do and say the right things.

To prevent myself from accidentally telling a lie, I would script my sales presentation word-by-word. If I made a mistake, I would confess my sins – both big and small – to our Creator and I would go back to my customers and correct myself.

I did not realize I had started to practise one of the most important qualities in the business world – Integrity. It was integrity that played a major part in helping me close sales, build positive relationships with my customers, and grow my career.

My HSR Code of Honour #2 puts it clearly:

‘Integrity is first and last. If people don’t trust me, they will not do business with me. If people respect me, they will be more inclined to do business with me. I will do everything lawfully, ethically and honorably.’


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