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Business Is Built on Trust

People like to do business with people they trust. You see why this is true when you consider the opposite statement: People don’t like to do business with people they don’t trust.

I owned an advertising agency once. We had a cardinal rule we lived by: Never be late with a job. Why? Because if we were late, what good was our word when we accepted the work? How would the client know we wouldn’t be late again the next time? Being on time with work every time built the relationship and encouraged the client to continue to engage us. On the other hand, we could undo all that good will and trust by being late just once. We might get a pass (or not), but late again and that could be the end of the relationship because the client couldn’t trust us to deliver.

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Likewise, paying our bills on time was one of the best ways to build trust and a strong relationship with suppliers. For instance, we would always be sure to pay a printer for a job even if the client was late paying us. We would not go to the supplier and say, “As soon as we’re paid we’ll pay you.” The printer didn’t work for the client. The printer had agreed to do the job for us. The benefit to us was by always paying the printer on time, we received exemplary service in return. Occasionally we would need a rush job done, and the printer would go out of his way to accommodate us. The trust between us cemented the relationship. Because of the trust and relationship we enjoyed with the printer, it made it possible for us to commit to work that we otherwise would have had to turn down.

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Much of the work of building trust can be accomplished by adhering to these simple principles:.

* Be on time. This applies not only to delivering work or paying bills but also to arriving for meetings on time, responding to an email right away, or calling when you say you will.

* Listen attentively. Being a good listener is half of being a good communicator. When you demonstrate to a person that you really hear what was said, you build trust. Conversely, look disinterested or downplay or dismiss their input and that person will cease to consider you as a trusted resource.

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* Follow through on the commitments you make. This includes delivering work for the price you quoted originally. The minute you see the work extending beyond the original specs, contact the client. It should be his choice as to whether and how to continue, not yours to plow ahead and present a surprise bill for overages. Putting your client’s interests above your own is another way to build trust.

If you have a business etiquette question, please email it to [email protected]

Post’s newest book, The Unwritten Rules of Golf, Morrow, will be available on April 28.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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