Trust Must Be Earned

In March 1975 I had less than £1 in my bank account, and no money to pay the rent and no job. I had applied for every job advertised in the paper. The job I finally won, at the 11th hour, had been applied for by 400 people. Statistics from 1953 reveal that 1975 was challenging and inflation was at 20%.

My position as estate manager for a property entrepreneur was actually a ‘Man-Friday’ for a landlord and involved at least 20 different roles from decorating to clearing drains, and booking holiday lettings to collecting rents.

I won the position because, I was informed later, I was presentable, enthusiastic and appeared trustworthy. The job came with a flat, a car and £20 a week – I was both saved and made. My employer firmly told me that: I trust people until they cross me. I gave him my word I would not let him down and over the next 3 years ran his business smoothly until he, surprisingly and shockingly, went first to prison and then, through legal fees, was forced into bankruptcy. I then acted on his behalf with the receiver of his assets.

I continued to adopt the same policy of trusting everyone until they let me down with my own business. I was let down many times by business partners and employees. Each time I would either end the relationship or dismiss accordingly. Until the time when I was let down so badly that I had a turning point and finally realized that the policy is not a good one.

In 1991, I endured my own surprising and shocking experience of bankruptcy. A business partner (and one of the UK leading construction companies) with which I was doing a joint venture went into liquidation and as all my money was wrapped up in the venture I went broke too. However that was not the situation that so badly let me down that I am referring to.

Following my bankruptcy I joined a Network Marketing Company and successfully built a good team around me that generated £1M in the first year. Network Marketing which is the formula that built large companies such as Amway and Avon for example works on the principle that you teach distributors to build a business, they do and in turn you get a percentage of their sales.

In time you can develop several levels of downline allowing you as upline to benefit from a passive income. The key to its success is to successfully develop the distributors you introduce to the business.

There was one distributor, we shall call RA, that I had invested my personal time, energy and profits to built their business and they were very successful. Indeed all the distributors I trained became successful making the business I had built one of the most successful in the UK Network Marketing Industry.

It was at a grand international event in Amsterdam, when I learned from one of the directors that the company was about to sign off its approval for my distributor RA to buy an upline position above me. Apparently the upline had already given the permission to sell – at a good price – as RA had persuaded them to sell with the false story that I already knew about it.

It is difficult to actually describe the absolute betrayal that I felt. From an entirely objective business perspective RA was making a good move. From my subjective perspective I had developed someone with no money into operating a business that generated a six-figure income. From my own, and clearly subjective, perspective all my months of support and my complete trust that I had given had been completely taken advantage of.

I reached both a realization and a Turning Point. The realization was confirmation of the adage: There are no friends in business. This I had already experienced several times yet refused to heed it. As for the Turning Point, from that moment business colleagues and employees would have to earn my trust.

If you think about it every loyal customer of a good business goes through a process: Know, Like and Trust. It is not Trust, Like and Know, which is what I experienced with RA.

My position as ‘Man-Friday’ was won because I was both presentable and looked trustworthy. I believed that the emotional trigger of getting a much needed job, coupled with my employers remark of I trust people until they cross me, was perhaps taken to heart in the wrong way by me and I adopted it mistakenly. Several business partners let me down badly in the 1980’s and I recall my accountant advising me that I was too trusting.

I still strongly believe that trust is absolutely fundamental to building and sustaining any relationship. But I now operate under the premise that you have to build, earn and prove that trust. And it cannot happen overnight. Real trust is not even considering crossing, letting them down, and certainly not going behind a partner’s back.

Business is a tough arena and having a worthy partner is actually rare. When it works as the examples of William Hewlett and Dave Packard, arguably the founders of Silicon Valley with Hewlett Packard or Rich de Vos and Jay Van Andel of Amway. To give away part of your business to an unproved partner involves huge trust and is the key reason for businesses breaking up. The wrong business partner, colleague or employee will give you more sleepless nights than you can imagine.

If you currently start out trusting, or more likely are far too trusting, then make this a Turning Point for you, otherwise it will cost you dear.

Make people earn your trust, in the same way that you work to earn your customers’ trust.

By the way, I walked away from the Network Marketing Business I had built, wrote a book on the principles of building a good networking business for Amway and made a small fortune for doing so, culminating in delivering a keynote to 60,000 Distributors and getting a standing ovation.

Everyone had received and read a copy of my book, which had proved a highly effective tool for them: They knew of me, they liked me, as they applied my template with great success, they began to trust me. Years later I still have clients and customers that were in the audience on that day.

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