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The 7 truths about trust in business


You know you need it. You know you can’t grow your business without it. You might even have it, but the question is – can you keep it?

In my experience, this thing we call trust is something business leaders know is critical to the success of their business. So I ask them: “What do you do to build it? How do you know if you’ve got it? What do you do on a day-to-day basis to manage the risk of losing it?” I get a lot of blank stares.

I define trust as our ability to rely on a person (or people), a company, a product or service to deliver an outcome.

So, your employees, your shareholders, your customers, everyone you deal with are relying on you for some kind of outcome. It’s when you don’t know what that outcome is that you have a problem.

Now, I hear some of you saying, “It’s easy. I know what my employees want. They want more money. Or they want work/life balance. Or whatever.” Well, I have news for you. If you are serious about really growing your business, if you want to outsmart your competitors and be the absolute best in your field, then listen up.

Here are 7 truths about trust you need to know:

  1. Trust is hard core. This is not some soft, warm fuzzy thing. We are talking about teams relying on each other, managers relying on staff, customers relying on the products and services you develop and deliver, your shareholders relying on the results you promised. Without trust, without the ability to rely on others, your business would fail.
  2. Assume nothing. Communicate everything. You can’t assume that the outcome others want is the thing you want to deliver. There has to be communication. What are all of these people relying on you for? What do they expect? What do they need? What are you promising them?
  3. Broken promises will kill your business. Seventy-five percent of people surveyed by our business, Entente, in 2006 believed that keeping promises is the most important aspect of building and maintaining trust. There are two types of promises: implicit and explicit. The implicit ones are the ones that can get you into trouble.
  4. Trust and Like are two different things. From our survey in 2006, we found that 19 out of 20 women and 16 out of 20 men will not deal with you if they can’t trust you – even if they like you. If you are spending time, money and resources getting your employees, customers, shareholders, management and Board to like you, you are wasting precious resources for little or no return.
  5. Trust = Results. A study by Watson Wyatt in 2002 showed that companies with high levels of trust had triple the total return to shareholders than companies with low levels of trust. That’s 300 percent more money!
  6. Trust = Retention. People join organisations and leave managers. They leave their managers because trust has broken down. They can no longer rely on that manager or the organisation to deliver the outcome they want. Customers will buy elsewhere if you do not meet their expectations and needs or if you break the promises you made to them.
  7. Trust = Relationships. We need to rely on others. “No man is an island,” John Donne said. Can you have a relationship without trust? It wouldn’t be much of a relationship, if you each managed to stick around. When relationships within your business break down, you lose productivity. When relationships with your suppliers and distributors break down, you lose customers and you lose money.

You need to build trust in your business if you want to continue to grow. Your customers will stay with you if they trust you, and they’ll flock to you from your competitors if you build trust better and faster than they do. You will attract and retain the best talent if they trust in your organisation and trust in the leadership and management. And your profitability will increase if you get it right.

Vanessa Hall is Australia’s leading expert on trust. Her business, Entente, teaches and supports organisations and individuals to build trust. Her recent book, The truth about trust in business, is available in all good bookstores.