by Lina Martinez

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In business, your personal reputation is everything. What you do and say is open to public scrutiny, and this is largely thanks to the internet where good and bad word can spread quickly if you do or don't behave honorably.

On the negative side of the coin, consider famous examples such as Martha Stewart. This popular American businesswoman saw her company, Martha Stewart Omnimedia, take a massive financial hit after she was indicted and jailed for insider trading. Her reputation sunk with it.

On the positive side of the coin, consider Belinda Stronach, a Canadian businesswoman who has not only found acclaim through her work in business but who has secured a positive reputation because of the charitable work she has spearheaded through the Brenda Stronach foundation.

One woman saw her reputation wither overnight, and while she has made a comeback, her actions haven't been easily forgotten. And the other has seen her reputation grow, as she has been internationally awarded for her work in business and in charity.

And so, what about you?

To build your reputation as a business leader, you need to focus on the following.

Be honest, even when you make mistakes

Be an honest businessperson. If you don't commit a crime, you don't do the time, and that is something Martha Stewart should have thought about before she was charged with fraud. Be good to those around you, operate your business fairly, and partner with other people in business who have the same honest credentials as you do. However, if you do make a mistake, own up to it. Martha Stewart dug a bigger hole for herself by lying to a federal investigator, and that drove her reputation down even further. While we would assume you would never make the same errors of misjudgment as she did, you should still exhibit honesty about your smallest mistakes, as by doing so, you might be able to redeem yourself and your reputation before it takes a hit.

Show your charitable side

Belinda Stronach has done much to improve the lives of young people and the homeless in the work she has done, and this is above and beyond her work in business. Think about what you could do as a business leader, starting within your local community. Could you donate some of your profits to a worthy cause? Could you donate your time to actively help a local charity? Could you hold a fundraising event? As these business examples show, being charitable is good for your business, and it will also do wonders for your reputation as a leader.

Be good to the people around you

One negative word on social media could quickly spread and cause your reputation to plummet. Therefore, make every effort to improve customer relationships, and take good care of your staff. By treating each with fairness and respect, you will receive good word-of-mouth on social media, and that can only be good news for your business and your personal reputation. Go the extra mile then, and do all you can to be good to the people you interact with on a daily basis.

Finally

Don't lose sight of your business reputation. Even those who had previously earned respect - hello again Martha Stewart - have fallen from a great height once word got out about their poor choices in business. Protect yourself then and follow our suggestions. The better you are as a person and business leader, the better your reputation will be.