Why We Put Honour At the Heart of the Bonjoro Culture

Matt Barnett

I was born in Britain - the home of tea, football (with your feet), Queen Liz and of course, honour (spelled with an -our, sorry Americans). We still worship three of these each and every day but that last one seems to have gotten lost somewhere between the 16th and 20th Century.

But fear not, honour isn’t dead, it’s just moved from battlefield to business. I’d like to share why it’s Bonjoro’s most important principle for business success and implore you to consider it to be one of yours.

/ˈɒnə/ Noun 
The quality of knowing and doing what is morally right.

Bonjoro is almost a year old (yay), and during our recent team retreat - between the late night Risk sessions, beer pong tournaments and paddleboarding adventures - we aired and shared what we believe to be our core values for the first time.

We’ve let most of these take shape over the last 12 months from the way believe we should, and do, conduct business - which I’ll be sharing in future posts. However the principle of honour in business is one we set in stone from Day 1, and it’s been essential in helping us achieve such an amazing first year.

To us, honour is about holding an allegiance to your moral principles and personal integrity, no matter the circumstances. We follow a code of honour based on 7 tenets* that we believe every single business should adhere to:

  • Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.
  • Thou shalt know, and do what is morally right.
  • Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
  • Thou shalt act with fairness & personal integrity.
  • Thou shalt accept and acknowledge personal responsibility for one’s actions.
  • Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
  • Thou shalt respect others and their beliefs. 

* Full disclosure: I totally stole a few of these from the knights chivalric code

The Tenets, Explained

Each tenet applies to both our internal, and external interactions - with customers, team members, partners, investors. Here's some examples of how they inform our thinking.

1. Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word. 

If you promise something, deliver upon that promise. If you cannot - don’t promise, or if circumstances change - see tenet 5. Never bend the truth, it eventually comes out.

If you promise to reach a deadline, meet it whatever it takes.

2. Thou shalt know, and do what is morally right. 

If any single person in the team is not morally comfortable with a decision, empower them to speak up. Address and evaluate this...and probably don’t do it.

Ridley Scott recently re-shot Kevin Spacey’s role in his new film “All the money in the world”, replacing Kevin with Christopher Plummer at the cost of $10million.

“There’s no time for pondering," he said. “We cannot let one person’s action affect the good work of all these other people," "It’s that simple."

3. Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them. 

Business should be a vehicle for impact: for delight, for personal success, and for good. Support all of your customers who need help like you would have done for your first customers on day 1.

We pledge 1% of our time, effort, revenue & equity to help those in need & offer discounted plans for startups to help them grow. Join the 1% movement here.

4. Thou shalt act with fairness & personal integrity. 

Hold true and be fair. People will trust you more for it and invest in you as a result. This is the path to building a much more successful business and team.

Pay your suppliers on time, always. No more excuses: it's fair and they will love you for it.

5. Thou shalt accept and acknowledge personal responsibility for one’s actions.

We love mistakes. If we are not making mistakes, then we are not pushing the boundary, not innovating, and, most crucially, not improving. If these mistakes involve or impact customers, explain and own them. More often than not, customers will not only forgive you, but relate to you. Everyone is fallible. Exposing it makes you real, and more trustworthy.

Some of our biggest advocates are customers who experienced bugs or issues in the early days of Bonjoro. Instead of shying away from the problems they were facing, we engaged with them and kept them happy while we fixed things behind the scenes. The result? A customer satisfied and a churn avoided.

6. Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy. 

The ‘enemy’ could be a person, a cause, an obligation - anything that you feel you need to take a stand against. To be honorable is not to be naive. In work and in all parts of your life, you will sometimes have to struggle. When you do, find strength, and you will build a better business for it.

We are asked by 1 out of every 3 new customers if they can use Bonjoro to send one video to all their customers. We stand fast and say no because it’s against our ethos of spending time on customers.

7. Thou shalt respect others and their beliefs.

Enough said. 

Why a code of honour leads to success in business

Following a code of honour gives you the tools and attitude to build an incredibly successful business. Look at any great business and you’ll find some of their values reflect the tenets above, whether it’s Google’s “Don’t be evil”, Atlassian’s “Don’t fuck the customer”, or Zappos’ “Be humble”.

It simplifies your decision making

As founder and papa bear at Bonjoro, I’m constantly faced with mentally draining decisions. Anything to make that process easier so I can concentrate on the business is invaluable.

A hardwired code of honour means that many of my Type 1 decisions (involving significant thought process) become Type 2 decisions (instinctive, binary, and immediate). If a course of action doesn't match the code, the choice is simple: don’t do it. It doesn’t provide an answer for every decision, but you’d be surprised at how many problems it solves. The Ridley Scott decision I mentioned earlier is a perfect example of this.

It enables high performing teams

When you empower your team to make decisions by these tenets, the magic really starts to happen. Every one of my team members can make decisions using their internal moral compass with confidence and the knowledge that we’ll back their decision, no matter their seniority.

This means that decisions are made faster throughout the organisation, and that trust is incredibly high between team members. With the critical element of trust, they will back each other and help you beat insurmountable odds.

Not being honorable will kill your business….eventually

Some people will always reach success by dishonorable means, but in a world where communication is so transparent and widespread it is (thankfully!) getting harder to hide such practices. How many times have you opened your social media of choice this year to see that another CEO has been pushed out of their business in disgrace?

Travis Kalanick is a great example. His actions have undeniably hurt Uber and burned through a lot of goodwill that people had for the app that once looked untouchable.

You’ll attract like-minded customers, colleagues and partners

A brand or a business gives you a platform to share your values with the world. When you behave honourably, other honourable people will notice. Over time they will like you, trust you and maybe even be inspired by you. This applies to customers, to talent, even to investors.

It lets you sleep at night

For many of us the line between business and work is a blurred one. If you’re in the right role, in the right team, then you should be passionate about your purpose. It is part of your life, not just a job.

This means that how we behave at work affects how we behave at home. Many people in this world are not honourable. We meet them, sometimes fall foul of them, and it can be tempting to stoop to their level. I can’t be sure of what benefits I’d gain from abandoning a code of honour, but I can be sure that I’d lose something I have now: the ability to sleep peacefully every night.

This code has enabled us to build the start of something amazing at Bonjoro. We’re no “overnight success” but honour has helped us keep to the path we want to walk, with some amazing people behind us. I implore each and every one of you to consider how you do business, and consider taking the pledge of honour too.

To finish, we asked Chris Booth, head of Mortgages at Announcer to talk to us about their honour system.

If you already hold honour close to your heart, send us a Bonjoro and tell us how and why it helps you work. We'll share the best responses with the world.

Growth tips
About the author
Matt Barnett
Papa Bear of Bonjoro
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