Archive for the 'Trust' Category

When trust is a best practice, profit margins increase

Few contemporary prophecies have stood the test of time better than this one by John Naisbitt, from his 1982 watershed book, Megatrends: “The more high-tech, the more high-touch.” I call that, “Naisbitt’s Razor.”

The reason for Naisbitt’s accuracy is simple: High tech, by definition, means digital. But you and I are not the least bit digital; we’re 100% analog. And our analog nature manifests as a desire to connect with - or as Naisbitt says, “touch” - other humans. So the value of touch increases proportionally with the increase in the velocity of our lives.

Digital is fast; analog is not. We may transport ourselves virtually at the speed of digital, but once there, we touch -eye, ear, hand - at the speed of analog. So how do we reconcile the fact that as high-tech consumers who desire and eagerly adopt each new generation of digital, we’re still, and will always be, analog beings? One word: trust.

Nothing is more capable of accelerating with high-tech while simultaneously governing down to high-touch than trust. Naisbitt didn’t directly address the concept of trust in his book. But I interviewed him twice on my radio program and I think he wouldn’t mind if I expanded his razor to: The more high-tech we have, the more imperative trust becomes.

In another of my favorite books, Built On Trust, by co-author and frequent guest on my radio program, Arky Ciancutti, M.D., I found this: “We are a society in search of trust. The less we find it, the more precious it becomes.” For millennia, customers did business with the same businesses because they wanted to deal with the same people. We trusted the people first and the company second. In an era where erosion of the high touch of trust is often lamented by customers and employees, there are still places where it not only exists, but was actually born. Where, in contrast to the rest of the contemporary marketplace, trust is still found in abundance. Those places are almost all on Main Street in the form of small businesses.

With trust now more precious than ever, build the foundation of your small business’s culture on it. And when you can deliver on trust as your North Star, you’ve earned the right to go to market with it. Here’s an example:  Reveal the combined industry tenures of your leadership team (101 years), or the average tenure of your staff (18 years). When prospects see those numbers, they hear T-R-U-S-T.

In one interview on my show, Arky said, “An organization in which people earn one another’s trust, and commands trust from customers, has an advantage.” Since contemplating that, I’ve maintained that being devoted to trust is not only the right thing to do, it’s a business best practice. Let me explain.

As the velocity of the digital marketplace increases, our business has to move faster, and our stakeholders - employees, vendors, etc. - have to keep up. As one of my vendors, if I can trust you to keep up, that’s a relevance value worth more to me than the competitive price of a low-bidder I don’t know. You just converted trust into higher margins.

In the greater marketplace, where devotion to trust is no longer ubiquitous, small businesses have been handed a rare gift. And all they have to do to claim it is create and leverage the relevance advantage Arky means when he says, “The advantage trust gives your organization is there for the taking, waiting to be harvested. It’s not even low-hanging fruit. It’s lying on the ground.”

You may have heard me say that the Price War is over and small business lost. Well, the Trust War is on, and small business is winning.

Write this on a rock … To claim that victory you must operate at the speed of trust.

Why trust is a business best practice

Are you familiar with the term “dysfunctional family?”

The simple definition is, a family whose members don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and/or estrangement.

Sadly, we humans also create dysfunctional businesses. Perhaps this definition will sound familiar: A dysfunctional company is one whose teams don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and a casualty list.

Someone once said, “Friends we choose – family we’re stuck with.”  Since we get to choose where we work and who we hire, why are there dysfunctional businesses?

The answer is actually quite simple, and it’s the common denominator in both businesses and families: human beings. If your family, or company, is dysfunctional, it’s because of the behavior of the humans.

Humans aren’t inherently bad, but we are inherently self-absorbed. And one of the by-products of self-absorption is self-preservation. When self-preservation shields are up, mistrust flourishes, goals go unmet, and failure is likely. When shields are down, productivity, creativity, and organizational well-being are evident. But the latter only happens if the stakeholders believe there is a basis for trust.

If your organization is not accomplishing its goals and making progress, look around to see if there’s more self-preservation going on than teamwork. Where evidence of individual and departmental self-preservation is found, you’ll also find lots of dysfunction, but not much trust.

In his book, “Built On Trust,” my friend, Arky Ciancutti, goes so far as to say that trust is “…one of the most powerful forces on earth.” He further states that the two most powerful trust-building tools are closure and commitment.

Closure is implied when there is a promise to deliver by a stated time. It manifests when performance happens or, in the alternative, a progress report is delivered in advance of the date.

Commitment, Arky says, “is a condition of no conditions.” When the relationship between two parties is built on trust, there are no hidden agendas. And while commitment may not always deliver the end product, it does guarantee a report about the progress.

Even though closure and commitment are skills that often must be learned, you’ll find willing participants in your employees, because human beings desire trust.  If your organizational culture isn’t built on trust, it’s not the employees’ fault. Trust and dysfunction have one key thing in common: they’re gravity fed. They start at the top and roll downhill.

Humans perform better in organizations built on trust.  Knowing this, successful managers demonstrate trust-building behavior and instill it in others as not only the right thing to do, but as a business best practice.

Write this on a rock — If organizational dysfunction is a poison, trust is its antidote.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

Observing the Small Business Code of Ethics

Since humans are capable of abstract thought and sophisticated language, our behavior often blurs the lines between black and white into what is known as “the gray area.”

Consequently, the desire for order motivated the establishment of ethical standards to encourage acceptable personal behavior, contracts to encourage legal behavior, and courts to sort things out when a final authority is required.

When it comes to ethical behavior, professionals have lots of help. Attorneys, CPAs, doctors, architects, investment professionals, etc., have established and published very specific ethical and professional standards, plus monitoring organizations complete with sanctioning authority. Indeed, part of their education and certification requires knowledge of that profession’s ethical standards and practices.

But when small business owners find themselves in the gray area with a customer or other business relationship, there is no sanctioning entity we can call on for guidance. We’re on our own; because The Universal Code of Small Business Professional Conduct and Ethics doesn’t exist.

Having now been in the marketplace in six different decades, I’m pleased to report that the moral compass, sense of fair play, and inclination to deal in good faith on Main Street is exemplary. Small business owners consistently demonstrate that life is much simpler – and more rewarding – when they just do the right thing. No doubt they regularly turn to ancient codes for behavioral guidance, including the Golden Rule and the 8th and 9th Commandments.

In addition to these, allow me to recommend three other principles which come in handy when you find yourself in the gray area, perched on the horns of an ethical dilemma. One is from an ancient philosopher, one from a 20th century Nobel Laureate, and one from a 21st century ethics thought leader.

On Transparency: “The way to live with honor is to be in reality what you appear to be.” Socrates, 5th century B.C.

On Integrity: “Integrity has no need of rules,” Albert Camus, from “The Myth of Sisyphus” (1942).

On Ethics: “Ethics is devotion to the unenforceable,” Len Marrella, author of In Search of Ethics (2005).

Here are all three delivered in one sentence: “John, I noticed one of the terms you wanted was left out when we signed the final contract. Even though the contract is in force, I did agree to that point. So let’s put it back in and resign the contract.”

Devotion to the unenforceable, thy name is small business.

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On my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I’ve had many conversations with Len Marrellafounder and president of the Center for Leadership and Ethics and author of In Search of Ethics – Conversations with Men and Women of Character. Click here to see them all and download or listen.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

A Small Business Minute: Build your small business on trust

Trust in a small business is not a means to an end, it must be an organizational way of life. Watch this one minute video on how to build trust in your organization.

Watch more of Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Integrity has no need of rules

While talking with an attorney friend of mine, our topic of discussion was about professional behavior in the marketplace. She reminded me that attorneys have very specific ethical and professional standards that are published, plus a well-developed monitoring organization, complete with sanctioning authority.

The story is quite similar for CPAs, architects, medical doctors, or any securities representative such as stock brokers, financial planners, etc. Much of the behavioral track these professionals run on is pretty well spelled out for them. Not that the members of these groups need to be led or coerced into good professional behavior. It’s just that, when in doubt, they have published guidelines with which to refer.

Small business owners operate in the same marketplace as the so-called professionals. Indeed, they are often our clients and customers. We serve the same businesses and consumers as other professionals, plus we enter into similar relationships, contracts and agreements. And we often find ourselves perched precariously on the same horns-of-a-dilemma as other prefessionals, But here’s the difference: The Universal Small Business Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics doesn’t exist.

Small business owners, like all humans, ultimately behave according to their own moral compass, sense of fair play and inclination to deal in good faith. When we find ourselves in a quandary over how to respond to a difficult situation that is in the gray area of a contract, we’re on our own. When we are faced with an ethical issue that would challenge King Solomon, there is no sanctioning body or support group to dial up, to to whom we can email a “scenario.”

There are many ancient codes small business owners can turn to for behavioral guidance in the marketplace, such as the last three of the Ten Commandments. But in terms of a handy guide, I think philosopher and 1957 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Albert Camus, may have given us the best ethical vector when he wrote, “Integrity has no need of rules.”

Wise small business owners know that life is much simpler, and exceedingly more rewarding, when we just do the right thing.

I’ve talked quite a bit about ethics with Len Marrella, founder and president of the Center for Leadership and Ethics and author of In Search of Ethics – Conversations with Men and Women of Character.

To see all of our conversations and either listen or download, click here.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

You aren’t invited to GM’s IPO party

Okay, let’s review a few events before I tell you about something that will make you want to take a hostage.

A. The federal government (read: politicians) pledged $700 BILLION of taxpayer money (read: yours and mine) to bail out Wall Street in 2008. According to many experts, this had to happen because Wall Street had so abused the securitization marketplace that we were teetering on the precipice of a full-blown economic depression.

Here’s how Wall Street fared after the bail-out: The bonus pool for Wall Street was $100 BILLION in 2007, the year before the bail-out. One year after, in 2009, the Wall Street bonus pool returned to $100 BILLION.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s Wall Street: HUNDREDS-of-BILLIONS / Taxpayers and small business: The Bill.

B. After decades of reckless contract concessions to unions and incredibly stupid management practices, General Motors goes hat-in-hand to the federal government for a bail-out in 2008. Those same politicians mentioned above committed approximately $50 BILLION to bail out GM and UAW.

Part of the rationale was to save “hundreds of thousands of jobs (read: union jobs). Meanwhile, small businesses across America had to lay off millions of their employees just to keep the doors open.

Scoring again: GM and unions: TENS-of-BILLIONS / Taxpayers and small business: Zilch.

So, here we are almost two years hence and GM has emerged from bankruptcy with the help of our tax dollars. In fact, GM is doing so well now, that they are making a profit and, full disclosure, have begun repayment on the bail-out.

GM is also about to go public with an initial public offering in the next few days. Because it has now become a more efficient and financially stable operation – thanks to you and me – the stock is expected to very quickly increase in value from the initial offering price. This means anyone who purchases the stock at the IPO price stands to make a tidy profit very quickly.

Now for the part that will make you want to take a hostage: You and I – regular retail investors who bailed out Wall Street and GM – aren’t invited to this party. As it stands at this writing, only wealthy investors and investment firms (read: Wall Street) will have access to IPO shares. Regular folks won’t be able to purchase the new GM shares through their accounts with Fidelity, E-Trade and the like.

Final score: Wall Street & GM: Bailed out and richer / Regular folks: The back-of-the-hand.

Here’s my proposal: The first day of the GM IPO, no institutions or highly-connected, rich investors can buy GM shares; only regular “retail” investors can buy GM shares. We would have all of the first day to buy as much as we want. The second day is open to everyone.

The U.S. Treasury Department could fix this if they wanted to - but if the average taxpayer is foreclosed from purchasing GM stock on the first day at the IPO price, we will witness another blatant example of collusion between Wall Street and Washington at the expense of regular folks on Main Street.

Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about the GM IPO issue as well as the bail out of GM with two of my favorite financial Brain Trust members: Gary Moore, founder of The Financial Seminary, a non-profit ministry, to build bridges between the financial and moral communities; and Bill Dunkelberg, Chief Economist for the National Federation of Independent Business. Please take a few minutes to click on one of the links below and listen … as always, leave your comments.

Why aren’t you and I invited to the GM IPO party? with Jim Blasingame

America’s ability to work out of an economic downturn with Gary Moore

Two experts debate the government bailout of GM with Gary Moore and Bill Dunkelberg




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