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I Trust You!

If people like you they’ll listen to you. But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.– Zig Ziglar, noted business author, speaker

Trust is expected. You don’t get points for trust. On the other hand, if you’re not fully trusted, that is noted – by everyone.

If I’m your customer, I expect that you’ll be transparent and fair about our business dealings. When it was exposed in 2016 that Wells Fargo employees were encouraged to order credit cards for “pre-approved” customers without their consent, they violated their customers’ trust and damaged the bank’s continuing reputation.

If I’m doing business with you, I also trust that you’ll respect me. A number of years ago, along with several other Wall Street banks, Goldman Sachs was criticized for making money at the expense of clients who did not fully understand the complex financial products with which they were dealing. One Goldman banker said that securing an unsophisticated, or “muppet” client was the top goal of the bank’s salespeople.

When I work with you, I expect your statements and claims to be truthful. In 2015, Volkswagen admitted cheating on US emission tests. “We’ve totally screwed up,” said VW America. “We’ve broken the trust of our customers and the public.”

Eventual resignations, fines or financial settlements in response to discovered transgressions don’t fix the cultures that allowed them to happen, and there are certainly more examples – lots more.

What’s the point?

To protect ourselves and our own businesses we need to disassociate ourselves and avoid any business dealings with those who are unpredictable, disrespectful, or dishonest. Some of these may even be long-term relationships.

— If they treat others inappropriately, it’s a reasonable assumption that they will at some point similarly treat us; — If they speak unfairly of others, it’s a reasonable assumption that in certain forums they will similarly speak of us; — If they don’t meet their commitments, disclaim having said what they’ve said, and even ignore written agreements that they’ve signed, we’re associating with a wrong partner.

Maybe we can’t quite put our finger on it, but our years of internalized experience have built a moral compass that will tell us when something’s not right.

Respect and predictability underpin trust. Abdicating to a habit of just maintaining an existing relationship, or blind reliance on accepted custom, or driving solely to maximize profit, or to win at any cost may foreshadow a coming corrosion of trust.

We need to protect our businesses and our reputations. We’re known by our conduct, but also by the company we keep. We ourselves choose with whom we associate, so the adverse effects of an untrusted relationship are largely self-inflicted. If we’re not sure a relationship is right, it’s probably wrong.

Do you have total trust in the people with whom you deal? Conversely, have you given them good reason to trust you?


Stan Davis is the Founding Principal of Standish Executive Search, a New England-based firm that advises business owners, executives and boards who are positioning their companies for accelerated growth, change or succession.


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