Be careful who you ask for advice. I used to believe that mompreneurs and other home based business owners naturally possessed a higher standard of ethics than the corporate executives and big business leaders of the world. I don’t know why I thought that to be true – maybe I simply wished it were the case so I could feel I was in good company.

But over the past several years, I’ve witnessed a few things in the entrepreneur world that discouraged me. I recently attended a conference in which “very successful” women entrepreneurs took the stage to share their tips and strategies for business. I was blown away when one woman shared her “raving success story” that was built on telling her customers a lie. Yes, a flat out lie. And she was proud of it because it led to a huge financial gain for the business. Of course, “It didn’t really hurt anyone,” she thought…so does that make it ok?

Later I heard the story of how one small company grew their Facebook following using a tactic that’s against the Facebook guidelines for business Pages. The general consensus in the room was that the strategy was ok, as long as she didn’t get caught. Really? Is this solid business advice? I’m not ok with that.

I’ve also been instructed to create “imaginary employees” to make my business seem bigger than it is… and to hide credit card purchases for the business from my husband because “After all, it’s not his business.” I’ve known lawyers who boast about their gift for finding loopholes that will ensure you don’t have to pay for services rendered. And don’t get me started on the tax advice I’ve heard for small business owners.

No, it’s not easy to live in integrity as an entrepreneur when you are surrounded by shady business practices and role models of questionable character. Proverbs 13:20 tells us to walk with the wise and avoid the company of fools. Sometimes I forget that the fools are doing all the talking.

So how do you run a business with integrity? Here are a few reminders to keep you walking with the wise:

1. Do your homework. Before you act on advice (or even seek out the opinion) of a mentor, expert, guru, consultant, business partner, etc., do your research. Talk with others who have worked with this person or company and don’t be afraid to ask direct questions about how they handle certain situations that would test their ethics.

2. Trust your instincts. If you have a feeling someone is not trustworthy, then don’t ignore those instincts. Don’t ever feel pushed into a corner as if you only have ONE option for getting the help you need. There are plenty of business owners out there who are waiting to provide you with high quality service and ethically sound advice.

3. Walk with the wise. Being an entrepreneur is a journey – and you’re going to need companions you can trust. Find an accountability partner, mentor, advisory board or mastermind group who can help you make wise decisions. Someone who understands there is more to success than money.

4. Write down your values. You may know what your personal values are, but it’s important to craft a values statement or list that reflects the values of your business. Place it somewhere visible so you (and  your team) can rely on it when making decisions. It will guide you in operating with integrity – in everything from bookkeeping to customer service. For a terrific example, check out the Zappos Family Core Values.

5. Believe in yourself. If you’ve lost out on a contract to a company that misrepresented themselves or relied on dishonesty to get the job, take heart in knowing your reward is yet to come. You are leading a business based in integrity – and there are plenty of clients and customers who will choose YOU over the competition specifically for that reason.