bar signThe media is buzzing over the alleged extravagant gifts and spending sprees provided to former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, in exchange for political access.  Reading about all of the reputation-busting spending former political figures have dabbled in has me thinking about the preservation of reputations, particularly for business owners.

Though I would never condone using political donations and government funds to foot the bill for goods as indulgent as Michael Jackson’s fedora or stuffed elk heads, I’d like to think these elected officials had somewhat noteworthy reputations to land them in office prior to these scandals they find themselves embroiled in. The lesson here aside from one in ethics: one scandal or—in the business world—one late payment, a lien or judgment, or even an incomplete credit file could be harmful to a reputation that took years to build.

So while they won’t likely face the dizzying amount of press coverage and tarnished reputations the McDonnells are, business owners should take a moment to remember the importance of credibility. Having hard evidence to validate a business’s reputation can prepare business owners to bid for big corporate or government contracts, approach lenders and grow their companies.

In addition to making sure that your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed, it’s important to walk the walk.  Your success is typically built around your credibility in your community, not just your credibility on the page. If you run a business that supports local, organic farmers, but you can regularly be seen frequenting chain restaurants that source their ingredients from corporate farms, you’ll want to rethink your personal habits. Whereas, if you’re a local bar, you can likely get away with more scandalous “false advertising” (like the sign above) without causing any harm to your reputation.  The reality for any business owner, and any politician for that matter, is that your personal life will inevitably reflect on your business.