Kanye West. Charlie Sheen. Lindsay Lohan – the list goes on and on. The entertainment world is teeming with celebrities who seem to thrive on bad publicity, their naughty words, and inappropriate actions, revealed in excruciating detail by the popular media.

And despite all of the “negative press,” their stardom seems to burn even brighter, and with it comes ever more lucrative opportunities, from book and movie deals to E! News interviews.

Their poor behavior becomes their brand, the rest of their great talent often overlooked in the face of their brazen actions and statements.

Are they role models for us? As business professionals, can we live by the cliché, “Any publicity is good publicity,” and have our reputations and businesses survive intact?

I don’t think so! For most business people, our good reputation is fundamental to our business success.

Consider these all too common situations:

  • A company develops a reputation for delivering substandard work, has high turnover and rampant employee dissatisfaction. Their financial stability is in question as well.
  • An individual becomes “known” for their abrasive personality and poor work habits.

In the face of competition would you do business with that company or individual? Probably not.

Regardless of the size of your city, the community in which you do business is often quite small and self-contained. Stories and rumors spread, confidence in a company or individual starts be eroded, and before you know it, there is a loss in business. The Internet can feed the frenzy, too. Just take a look at www.glassdoor.com where anonymous employees openly share the good, the bad, and the ugly about their employers.

Protect your reputation and guard it well, as it is one of the most important components of a successful business. Follow these steps:

  • Monitor your online reputation so that you will be immediately aware if there are any negative posts or reviews.
  • Meet with your employees on a regular basis to assuage hurt feelings and counter potential rumors that may be circulating in the company.
  • Do great work and deliver it on time.
  • Ask for feedback from your employees, clients, and networking contacts. Encourage them to be brutally honest so that you can take the appropriate corrective action if need be.
  • Do a “Voice of the Customer” survey and use a third-party to get qualitative feedback about the work that you are doing for your clients.

And of course, always think twice before you say or do anything that might be misconstrued. It takes a long time to build a good reputation; one bad word or actions can damage it forever.