Do you and your business come across as trustworthy?

What actually invokes trust? Is it a big flashy website? Is it by you telling potential customers how wonderful you are? Is when you help your clients save money, even if it means some corners are cut?

Think about these scenarios…

Scenario #1.
In the mid 1980s, I got a loan from the City to renovate a building I owned in a target area of that town.  The contractor told me he would be willing to “pad” the bill, with us splitting the difference.  I mildly responded with “No, thank you; I’m not comfortable with that” – and then reported him to the City.  I don’t know what happened afterwards, but hope he lost his status as a recommended contractor.

Scenario #2.
Another contractor story.  Around 2001 or 2002, I ran a mental health agency and needed a ramp built leading into one of our buildings.  On completion, the bill came in at $7,000, significantly more than anticipated.  After some discussion with the contractor, there was a small reduction in the fee.  I later learned that someone had overheard the contractor saying that it was “State money” so they were golden to charge a lot on that job.   Believe me, that contractor never did any work for me again.

Scenario #3.
I do bookkeeping and office management for micro-businesses… mostly one-person operations.  Sometimes the business owner will come in and do the bookkeeping him/herself, which can interfere somewhat with the processes I have in place (including certain redundancies designed to catch mistakes).  I could complain, and ask those business owners to let me handle everything, but I don’t.  Why not?  Transparency.  There have been too many instances of billing and office personnel stealing from organizations.  I want the business owners I work with to feel absolutely confident that they are still in charge of their finances, even if it sometimes creates extra work for me.

Scenario #4.
I also own an antiques business, with a website and blog describing some of the inventory.  I’m always careful to describe any defects in a product, and include photos.  Customers have praised those descriptions, with one person saying she never would have noticed the slightly worn area on a vintage wingback she purchased.

We can all come up with numerous other examples, I’m sure!

So, what do these examples have in common?

To me, it says “trust”.

If you’re in business for yourself, your customers have to trust that you have THEIR best interests at heart.  It’s not about what you and your business need, it’s about what your client needs.

If that client – or potential client – doesn’t trust that you will do well by her, you’ll be shut out before you ever get through the door, and sometimes you won’t even know why.

How do you engender trust?

1)  Listen to the other person and make certain you know what’s being said or asked.  This is especially important if the conversation isn’t happening in person, because phone conversations, emails, and especially text messaging can miss a lot of cues.
2) Communicate clearly what you can and can’t do.
3) Remember there are often gender/ethnic/age differences in communication styles – and that no one style is right or wrong, they are just different.
4)  Beware of being too eager (“I’ll be there in 10 minutes”) or over-promising (“Oh sure, we can do everything”), or of being too rigid (“I’m the expert so you have to do it this way”).
5)  Remember that everything is a communication – even silence.  If a customer or potential client suddenly backs out of a conversation, ask yourself “What went wrong?”.  Don’t presume that the other person is just a difficult pain in the butt (although that’s always possible!).  Perhaps you made the conversation all about you and your business, not the customer’s needs.
6) And of course, trust is built on doing what you say you will do, and if for some reason that can’t happen, making certain you explain that you can’t, and offer alternatives or options.

Do you have examples to share – either successes in developing trust or times when it was broken?


Contact Linda at 207 / 713.0674 (call or text) or by email at to discuss how she can help with practice management and back office operations so you can do the more important work of running your business, not being your business.

Categories: Business Practices

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