Character is a Business Imperative

water-for-lifeChuck Wall,
consultant, speaker and author of Customer CEO, Profit from the Power of Your Customers has researched hundreds of companies that are getting it right and chronicled case after case in his exciting new book. From his manifesto: “…Successful business leaders of the future will be those companies that partner with their customers, lead with listening, inspire their employees through purpose, and bring their core values to life in ways that are meaningful to customers and employees alike. ”  I am engrossed in his book, marking pages and taking notes.  Anyone in business with clients, or who is a professional in a company with stakeholders of any sort, can learn about how to amp up core principles like brand integrity, employee participation and customer engagement–with his CustomerCEO philosophy.  He divided his real-world stories and lessons into 9 Powers, and in our call, Chuck and I focused mostly on the last one. The Power of Purpose. Surprised?

You can download and listen to the call recording here ===> CustomerCEO Call-Chuck Wall  Do it to hear the juicy details of his experiences!

The Power of Purpose is the 9th Power Chuck refers to in his book because he said he saved the toughest for last. “Toughest” because it is the hardest concept for business people to hear. It isn’t the concrete or traditional discussion of business strategy and it is not something most left-brain business folks relate to. Organizations must embrace and live the concept of purpose in order to succeed. Not only does the customer ask him or herself, “Do we share the same values?” when doing business with you, but ultimately, they are concerned with your character.  Chuck says that customers, no matter how cynical they may appear, have a real hunger for integrity and truth.  This goes way beyond the values and mission plaques that hang on the walls of the building.  Your success depends on if you’ve humanized a brand that is translated  through your character and culture.  Just as Simon Sinek says in his famous book Start With Why...people don’t care what you do until they know WHY you do it.

In the book, Chuck describes numerous examples of companies that have gotten this Power of Purpose right.  In our PWP call we touched on  a a handful, and a few you may know…

Zappo’s – Tony Hsieh, CEO, has built a culture that is steeped in purpose and character.  He shared that when they began to talk sincerely and openly at all levels of the organization about purpose, employee engagement soared!

TOM’s Shoes – The founder, Blake  Mycoskie was on a pleasure trip to Argentina (think red wine and polo) when he witnessed the extreme poverty there and specifically, the need for shoes. He saw how this effected the children’s health and education. They could not enter the schools without shoes. Soon after, his TOMS shoe company was born with the famous One for One premise.  You buy a pair and a pair is donated to a developing country where there is a need. They hand-deliver the shoes to the children- so that you can literally see the joy in the children’s faces and this becomes live-changing for all.  (He now does eyewear as well.)

Lululemon Activewear Chuck shared a story where they had a snafu with one of their new lines of yoga pants and had a recall. A real product disaster.  The company was honest with the customers, and had such a great relationship with their following, it didn’t hurt the company.  This rarely happens. Clients will forgive even errors, when you have a strong relationship built on trust and character.

Chuck Wall and CustomerCEO is a great example of getting it right.  In his sales of the book, he created a built in purpose-based project.  For every 500 books sold, he will provide a family from a developing country with a Compassion’s Water of Life clean water system. That’s over 1 million gallons of clean water for a child and his or her family.  You can read more about this lifesaving mission, and more CustomerCEO content and updates, at .

So, do you think character counts? How do you show your clients/customers/stakeholders that you are integrity-based? Has it ever been questioned? Comment for the community!




  1. Integrity and good character are critical to businesses. It’s perplexing to me why those qualities are not at the heart of every business. Chuck Wall has the right attitude and character to do a lot of good. I hope his success is astonishing, even to him.

    • jberquist says:

      I know, Jane. Hard to fathom why there are not more businesses operating this way! The companies in Chuck’s research, along with his own business are wonderful examples to follow. And every single professional can make a difference on this in their own way — the best part! Thanks for your comment!

  2. Kathleen says:

    Character absolutely matters. There are several words to describe good character; the one I want to focus on is TRUST. As noted in the book THE SPEED Of TRUST, when people trust one another, you get a lot accomplished more quickly. Good character builds trust; trust builds relationships; and relationships fuel growth.
    My group delivers software that is meant to make people more productive. When implemented, it always has some number of bugs in it, despite our extensive testing. There have been a few times when the problems were significant. When that happens, the trust I have already established (or not) with my “customers” determines how they react to the problem. If they know that I have integrity and they trust me, they will give me the benefit of the doubt. If they do not, they will nail me to the wall.
    Building trust is key to every relationship we have.

    • jberquist says:

      Thanks, Kathleen. Great example. Knowing you, there are more times that you are getting the benefit of the doubt!

  3. Hi Jill, Jane and Kathleen,

    First it was a pleasure-and a lot of fun- to be able to do the People with Purpose interview with Jill. Second, I so admire what you guys are openly talking about and doing because it’s hard to stay focused on core life issues like character and integrity when it feels that the winds are blowing the other direction somedays. We’ve sadly created corporate cultures that are often built on other things…the quick buck, cutting corners, expediency. From a “customer first” point of view, they smell this a mile away. Part of my message to executives is simple: why is doing the right thing so hard for you? How would you like to be treated? Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus fame taught his people that it was their job to see their customers are people first, not robots dispensing money. Not to dwell in the past, but there was a simple grace and majesty to what people like Marcus understood about their customers and practiced: to truly value and serve them before themselves. I believe this is our true calling in business. If we serve those around us, the profits will follow in due course, even in this time of hyper competition and tech craziness. I hope you have a chance to read Customer CEO and keep this conversation going. Thanks!