How to Maintain Your Integrity in a Hyper-Competitive Business Environment

Just because you’re a startup doesn’t mean you get to cheat

Joe Procopio
7 min readDec 2, 2019


Every entrepreneur will arrive at a crossroads where we can do the right thing and lose or do the wrong thing and win. If that kind of win never sits right with you, read on.

I asked my email list for their horror stories on the costs of integrity, and lack of integrity, in business, especially around startup. The results were explosive in their volume, brutal in their honesty, and mostly painful in their outcome.

Each story also aligned neatly with one or more items in my guidance below, so please bear in mind that while I have to keep the stories private, the advice is real, and the evidence is overwhelming.

The overarching moral? Maintaining your integrity in a hyper-competitive business environment is easy… until it isn’t.

First, Decide What Kind of Entrepreneur You’re Going To Be

Look, I’m not here to save your soul. Passing judgment takes way too much time and energy that I’d rather spend on my day job.

If you’re in startup to fleece the suckers, be they too-rich investors or sheep customers or both, carry on, I’ve got nothing for you. If you’re trying to game the system or find the loopholes, you’re in startup for different reasons than me. There are volumes of information on the Internets to get you to untold riches. I’d tell you that they’re all lying to you, but you’re probably not going to listen to me on your way out.

Making the decision to maintain your integrity through the lifecycle of your business is not one-and-done or set-it-and-forget-it. It’s a decision you’re going to have to revisit multiple times under complex circumstances. There will be many “steal bread to save your starving family” moments along the way.

I’m being a little facetious. There won’t be any of those moments, just situations where you’ll try to convince yourself you’re doing something for the greater good. I know. I’ve been there.

In fact, I personally believe that some of the greatest startup rip-off artists of our time — the Adam Neumanns, the…



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building & GROWERS. Write at and More at