When I say the name Tiger Woods, what immediately comes to mind?
Perhaps it’s “one of the world’s greatest golfers” or “that guy who really, really cheated.” Chances are no matter what comes to mind, you eventually will recall the scandal around his infidelity. Tiger was a man who had it all: a loving family, doting parents, unbelievable talent, the admiration of young people. He didn’t lose it overnight either. It was a long, calculated course of behavior that caused his fall. It just came to light overnight. I bring this up because he’s in the news again and I think he’s an important case study.
If Tiger Woods was a small business, would you ever shop at his store again? I’m not sure I would and it’s strictly because of trust. When a business is found to be unethical or dishonest, even about just one thing, it’s hard to ever trust it again. This is important because as a small business owner, the pledge of transparency and honesty should be instilled in everything you do. It should begin with your company mission and then be embedded in every other aspect of your business from operations, to employee training, to customer service, and especially your marketing. Besides being the right thing to do, it is important because it is virtually impossible for a business to recover from dishonest practices. I say virtually because Martha Stewart is a perfect example of how it is possible.
Martha Stewart made a bad investment decision, but she owned up to it and took the punishment deserved. She didn’t escape the consequences using her power or celebrity, although she began by dragging out the consequences. But, she eventually conceded and did what was right. While I might still think of the scandal when I hear her name, it’s more of a whisper. With Tiger, it screams like a headline.
Most often, your audience is unforgiving when trust has been compromised. The incident is always at the back of their minds. Unless you offer a high demand, one-of-a-kind product, there are too many alternatives available. Trust is the at the core of a buying decision, just as it should be at the core of everything your business does. Here are a few tips for inspiring trust in business.
1. Instill an uncompromising philosophy of trust in every aspect of your business beginning with your mission statement.
2. Ask employees to pledge to and sign an agreement following ethical standards, honesty and integrity. Meet regularly and discuss the importance of trust, showing the positive impact it has on the business.
3. Trust others. Trust your employees, customers, and vendors. Trusting those you depend on will inspire them to care. Extending your trust helps you gain their trust.
4. Empower employees to coach one another and encourage their involvement and feedback on any incidence where trust might be compromised.
5. Promote this philosophy visibly throughout your organization, internally in hallways, newsletters, employee training and development programs, and break rooms, and externally in your marketing, advertising, and communications.
Successful relationships are built on trust. It is the essential component for building enduring relationships with your partners, customers and the community you serve. Trust me on this!