February 7, 2011-An old-fashioned but critically important business concept

Think about it.
When you can trust an employee, when you can trust a supplier, and when you can trust a customer, everything just moves faster. The friction created by doubt and distrust is removed and things get done. Quicker.
We all ask for trust.

  • To another dealer: “Hold that unit, I’ll be right over to pick it up;”
  • To my banker: “Can you clear this check today? I have a deposit tonight that will cover it;”
  • To my setup guy: “Can you stay late tonight and pull me out of this bind?”
    And in each of these cases, business gets done that would not have happened if there had not been trust. Yeah. Old-fashioned trust.
    With it, things happen. Without it, things slow to a crawl while we round up our nondisclosure agreements, while the lawyers jaw, and while the bank loan committee meets for the third time.
    So, do others trust you? Do they trust you on the showroom floor? In your shop, and at your parts counter? Are you “trustworthy”?
    Let’s go back and look at the examples we started with. Let’s see how trust either makes it work, or it slows the transaction.
    First, the phone conversation with our dealer friend across town. You need the unit now. He could sell it at any time and you ask him to hold it for you. He does it. Because over the years there have been dozens of these calls between you. Never once have you let him down, and he has done the same for you. You have built the trust, and a bike gets switched and delivered.
    Your banker clears the check, because you have always performed. Your word is good, and he knows that from long experience. And it goes both ways. Whether he needs a bike, a trailer, a tune up or a bungee cord, he knows that you will be fair with him.
    My setup guy knows there isn’t time to work out the details right now, but if he stays and gets the units together, things will work out, because you are fair and he can count on you. Next day you toss him the keys to the Gold Wing demo for a long weekend ride. He grins, and he’ll be there for you next time you need him for a little extra effort.
    Without trust, none of these actions would have happened. I miss a sale because I can’t pick up the unit fast enough. The check bounces even though money was there just minutes after the cutoff. My setup guy walks off the job at 5 o’clock, and the big order that came together at 4:30 doesn’t get delivered as needed. This is the high cost of low trust.
    But on the other hand…
    Winnie Churchill picks up the phone and calls FDR. Sir Winston says he needs help, but he knows the American people are not quite ready to jump into the little fight he has going on. They talk, and hang up without a single note being written. But lend-lease soon appears, on June 6, 1944, men are moving on Omaha beach, and by May of ’45 Allied troops are marching in Berlin.
    Warren Buffett shakes the hand of Bill Childs here in Salt Lake City, and the R.C. Wiley Co. moves over to the Buffett portfolio. Lawyers will memorialize the details later, but with that handshake, the multimillion dollar deal is done.
    A hot dog vendor in New York City sees that the line at his stand is getting too long as he takes time to make change. He is losing customers who can’t wait, so he sets out a change basket and asks each customer to make their own change. His line goes down, his sales go up and he doesn’t lose a dime in change.
    My 3-year-old son doesn’t want to go to his Sunday school class. We talk, and he finally admits he is afraid he will get lost when they dismiss the class. I tell him I will be there to get him, and he reluctantly agrees to go. It’s time, and I’m waiting in the hall for the class to get out. Someone walks out early and for just an instant Jared can see through the open door that his Dad is waiting for him. Relief washes over him. Confidence builds, and no more problems with attending Sunday School.
    In each of these examples it is trust that solves the problem. It is trust that moves events forward. It is trust that eliminates the friction of fear. Yes, I know that hope, and trust, are not components of a strong business plan. And yes, I am familiar with the wry insight of Ronald Reagan’s “Trust, but verify.” Interesting. As valuable as trust is, you can’t demand it and you can’t buy it. You can only earn it.
    As a young man I played trumpet in a dance band. I was out till all hours of the night, but would always be home by milking time at 3:30 a.m. I asked my Mom once why she and Dad trusted me so much, when my friends all had curfews. She just smiled, and simply said, “Son, we will trust you until you break our trust.”
    And that was it. That is how you build trust, and also how you can lose it. So work at it. Build trust in every action you take. Do this, and first, you will feel the sense of calm that comes from being trusted. And then, with time, you will realize your shop just seems to run better.
    Yeah. The speed of trust. It’s worth it.
    Trust me.
    My thanks to the Covey Leadership Center for some of the thoughts contained in this article. PSB
    Hal Ethington has been associated with the powersports industry for more than 30 years. Ethington is a senior analyst at ADP Lightspeed. He can be reached at

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