Integrity is, by far, the most important value to have. Not just personally, but also in business. It encompasses trust, honesty, confidence and authenticity all in one. As you know, providing TOP notch customer service (as in above-and-beyond-customer-service) is vital to your business. Integrity goes hand in hand with that concept.
Decor8 wrote an awesome post yesterday on the fact that "DIY does not mean Duplicate It Yourself." Obviously there are copy-cats out there. People who lack that integrity and will blatantly copy your work. Has it happened to me? Yes. More than once. And not just in the "I'll borrow your designs" type of way - but in the "I'll copy things from you word-for-word" type of way. I could write you a novel about how I feel about this. Its the biggest way to short-change yourself and your clients AND damage your reputation.
But what I want to talk about in this post is something a little less intentional. Sometimes, as a new business owner, new designer, new artist - we find inspiration in the work of others. I ABSOLUTELY find inspiration in the work of other stationers, other wedding industry professionals, other big dreamers. And when you're new, it's very easy to think (or even unconsciously think) "I love how they worded their Terms and Conditions. Its very clear. I'll just borrow this line and that line..." OR to look at another artist's work and think "this is working so well for them, I could borrow this image or that image..."
And this is where integrity, and a commitment to developing your OWN brand, comes into play. Being inspired by the work of others is one thing. But being inspired by the work of others - to create something that fits, feels, or looks just as good (IE: very similar) is another thing.
I've written a lot about how I stumbled upon my own personal style. I knew in my heart what I loved, but I wanted to cater to the audience. So I designed fluffy, frilly, decorative, ornate stationery. Until one day, I decided - I don't like this. I like clean. And simple. And traditionally minimal creations. So I went with it.
Allow yourself to do that. Create, build, design until your fingers want to fall off. Mess up a thousand times so that you can whittle your way down to your OWN personal style. And this doesn't just apply to designing - but to writing your copy, choosing your equipment, etc.
All of this to say - always reach out for help. Ask those you look up to for tips and advice. Always admire the work of others. But if you don't let your OWN personal brand and personal style come out - you'll have nothing to stand on - you'll have no brand. Integrity is the glue that holds your brand, your personality, your customer service, the quality of your work, and your potential - all together.