Keep Your Reputation Squeaky Clean with Five Questions


It doesn’t matter how honorable you think you are: in today’s social media environment it only takes one disgruntled employee, business partner or customer to put a stink on your business that can be hard to shake.

To protect yourself and your brand, use these five questions to proactively identify any policies or practices that might leave you open to problems and root them out before they cause trouble.

  1. Are you keeping anything from your members or employees? Make sure your contracts and agreements spell out all of the rights and requirements of both parties in clear, simple terms – yours as well as theirs. The better everyone knows where the lines are drawn, the less likelihood for issues down the road.
  2. Do you exclude certain groups of people? Every business has its core groups of customers. The problem comes when the language, images and other content you use to connect to one group become clear and sometimes offensive signals to other people that they don’t belong. It only takes a little inappropriate humor or choice of words to find your Box somewhere you don’t want to be, so when in doubt leave it out.
  3. Do you stand up to sexually inappropriate behavior? Do you have a clear, unambiguous commitment to maintaining a safe, supportive environment for all members and staff? Does everyone on your team know how to recognize when someone feels vulnerable or uncomfortable? Do they know how to intervene? Do you and your team know what to do if someone comes to you with an issue? The answers to these questions don’t have to be complex. They can be as common-sense as what you would want for your sister, brother, son or daughter. The key is to set the rules and have those conversations with your team now, because by the time you need them it’ll be too late.
  4. Are you stealing someone else’s work? I’m talking about words, images and ideas that you use around your Box. We all have a Dilbert cartoon or an inspirational quote from a magazine taped up somewhere, but the moment you use a photo, illustration or article as part of your product or promotion, it becomes an asset for which you need permission. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. Most creative people are small business persons themselves and in many cases will simply appreciate the recognition. Even in cases where there’s a fee involved I find that reasonable requests generally achieve reasonable terms.
  5. What is your data/privacy policy? It may not seem like a relevant issue for a gym owner, but as soon as you collect data on a digital device and connect that device to the web you’re in the data protection business. While you can never be 100 percent secure about any of this, there are four principles you’ll find in most guidelines:
    1. Don’t store information you don’t need, especially credit card numbers and bank info.
    2. Delete or return information you no longer use.
    3. Let customers know what information you have so they can let you know what’s important.
    4. Treat customer information like you would cash. Even if it’s on a note pad. Keep it locked up and limit the people with access.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in business it’s the things that undermine your reputation don’t walk through the front door in the light of day.  They creep in when you’re paying attention to something else – a compromise here, a cut corner there. No one notices, until they do.

Don’t get stuck in that trap. Use these five questions to make sure your Box’s reputation for ethics is as strong as its reputation for fitness.

Michael McLinden
Michael McLinden earns his road rash as a serial entrepreneur, and consultant to health, wellness and fitness related companies in the U.S. and Europe with a focus on market analysis, branding and value creation. He has held executive management and strategic planning responsibilities in a number of regional and global advertising and marketing firms, including Mc|K Healthcare, which he co-founded and ran until 2014. He holds an MS from Purdue University and an MBA from TIAS Nimbas business school in the Netherlands. Email him at