Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It Takes a Long Time to Build Trust - It Takes One Action to Destroy That Trust

"I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself" - Robert E. Lee

"People ask me why it's so hard to trust people. I ask them why it's so hard to keep a promise." - Unknown

"It takes a long time to build trust. It takes one action to destroy that trust."

Are you helping yourself and your business by being a dependable, trustworthy person? Or are you making the consistent mistake of changing your mind and, more importantly, what you say, and what you tell people, for the goal of obtaining short-term profits? Or, as the old saying goes, are you tripping over the quarter to pick up the penny?

Are you building the image of a person that the people around you can trust to do what they say they will do, when they say they will do it, on time, every time? Are you working everyday to build that trust amongst your coworkers, clients, business partners and customers so that they know, that you are a 100% trustworthy person who they can depend on and, in the case of your coworkers and partners will work for and follow through thick and thin?

If you are not doing that, you are making a big mistake and you are damaging your business chances of success on the long term.

I work with a guy whom I trusted and worked hard with for ten years. Oh sure, sometimes we get into disagreements on how our business should be run, but, ultimately we are heading for the same destination so sometimes there will be differences on how to get to the goal. That's okay. As long as we are going to the same place, then it's okay to argue on how to get there; maybe he wants to take the train and I want to take the bus.

Recently though, we have been getting into disagreements because he keeps making promises to people and breaking them. I wince when this happens. In the life of a business, it's okay for a company to test the waters and see how things and new business plans float. Sometimes, perhaps even often, it's okay to stop in mid-stream and cancel projects or even completely change the direction of the company. But I don't think it is okay to make promises to people that you are going to "do this" or "do that" on Monday then, on Tuesday, tell them that you won't do what you promised.

Like I said, businesses change. It's okay to change and change your mind. Breaking promises is something that happens sometimes, but breaking promises to different people once a week or everyday is completely out of line and way over-board.

I had to have a polite word with him about it yesterday. It was a good talk.

One day, about one month ago, the boss of another famous company in Japan called me up. His business had dropped 30% over this last 12 months. He told me that he needed to do something and he wanted me to come up with a new promotion plan for his new service which was starting up in 2.5 months. He wanted me to do it because he said he knows my reputation and he needed a "quick to react" plan. That's what I excel at. Within a week of his asking, I had spoken to several of my trusted people in my buzz marketing network and arranged a comprehensive plan that ran for 6 months starting within 3 weeks! I presented it to him and he said he loved it and wanted to do it for certain.

He also told me that he needed to clear it with his staff but it shouldn't be a problem. That was a Friday. He promised me that he'd call me back that next Monday. He didn't call back. The next day, Tuesday, I sent him an email since time was critical. There was no reply. I also sent an email on Wednesday and Friday, still, no answer. The next week, I called him up and spoke with him on the phone and he said the staff were all right and he wanted to talk with the local government organization for the promotion. I stressed, once again, that we were losing valuable time. He said he understood and he promised me he'd call me back that evening. 

He didn't call.

The same thing the following week. Finally, three weeks after the first meeting, I spoke with him on the phone on a Monday. He profusely apologized for not getting back to me and then he said, "I am keen to go on these plans. I'll definitely get back to you Wednesday, Thursday at the latest."

He didn't call me back again! That's 3 times he promised to call me back and didn't. 

Now, I know everyone is busy, but too busy to pick up the phone and make a 20 second phone call? I don't believe that. 

Now some people will say, "Maybe he just can't say 'No!'" but this is a foreigner we're talking about. Not a Japanese. So saying, "No!" shouldn't be a problem. 

The plan I came up with was contingent on a few other parties getting involved. It was an organic buzz marketing solution. This means that there are two or three other companies or entities that tie up for the promotions and create a synergy to promote an entire concept to a much wider audience than if the promotion was ran by just one company.

In some of the pieces of the promotion, I talked to two of the most famous companies in Japan to become partners with this initial company that contacted me ran by this foreigner. These other two companies are huge organizations and we have done several organic, buzz marketing promotions together over these last 4 years. They completely trust me and I trust them.

They know that I am going to do what I say I will do. I know they will reciprocate; they will always do what they say they are going to do. That's how you build trust. That's why we enjoy working together.

This foreign boss who can't even call people back when he says that he's going to call? I didn't tell him to call on "Wednesday, or Thursday night at the latest" he volunteered that by himself.

Is this person trustworthy? Do I want to allow this sort of person into my trusted network of folks who work in organic and buzz marketing? Do I feel confident that this person won't piss off my other partners? Would you, dear reader, trust this person and introduce him to your trusted partners? 

No way. I don't think so.

I gave this guy a chance and tried to trust him, but now I can't. I don't want to work with him. I can't. 

I now understand why his business is down 30% over the last year. No surprise there. Does it surprise you? 

I also know that he is going to call me and, at the last minute, ask me to arrange the promotions, but I am going to have to decline. I can't depend on this guy not to make me look bad to people whom I've worked with and built a reputation of trust. I've mentioned before that sometimes the jobs you reject are just as important as the jobs you keep. Heck, if we're not going to do great work, then I don't want to do it. 

Incredibly, the "Untrustworthy meter" does go to minus eleven

Like I said, 

"It takes a long time to build trust. It takes one action to destroy that trust."

This guy has committed three of those "one actions." I can't trust him. I mean, would you?

Don't be like this guy. Build trust.

It's hard to measure the value of trust in a relationship but we know the cost of losing it.


Anonymous said...

That's pretty bad, Mike. You're right. Dump that guy.

Anonymous said...

I agree Mike. Showing little or zero tolerance to flaky people in business is one of the most important rules to follow. In my business (renting rooms), I deal with many clients like this. Taught me a lot about recognizing trustworthy and stable people as well. Wasn't an easy process, but it never is.

Anonymous said...

I like the quote at the top... Really, just how difficult is it to call someone back when you say you're going to do it? If you tell someone that you're going to do something then you don't do it, that is a lie... If someone will lie about small things like that, you can be sure as shit they'll lie about something important that really matters.
Is that what you work hard to build a good reputation for? To work with people who you can't trust as far as you can throw them?
-Taylor in Chiba