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Without Trust,
Life is Not Worth Living

-- Confucius

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Building a World
You Can Trust

System of Trust, LLC presents Trusted to Lead Workshops for Executives & Managers who want to create an extraordinary difference

The Biggest Mistake in Business

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in business …. marketing mistakes, operations mistakes, financial mistakes. One of my mentors was a fine gentleman named Royal Little, who founded Textron; he wrote a book “How to Lose a $100 million, and other Valuable Advice.” (that amount of money would be over $ billion in today’s dollars). I read the book, cover-to-cover. Royal gave me and other entrepreneurs lots of insights about business. But he left out one important point, and it was that one thing that really bit me hard.

The biggest mistake I made, over and over again, was doing business with people I could not trust. This is not just with suppliers or customers, but also the people I hired.

Like most entrepreneurs, I was indoctrinated to look for competence in those I hired, and in the companies that supplied me or gave me advice. All this sounds pretty smart on paper, but the outcome was not very good at all. I hired managers and staff that stole money, sometimes lots of it. Looking back at those nave times, I’ve hired a very competent embezzler, several very competent con-artists, a couple of highly competent antagonizers, many very competent liars, and more than my share of highly competent ego-maniacs.

The problem with these people is that they didn’t just fade into the sunset when I realized my mistake and needed to get rid of them. Revenge and law suits followed, unless I caught them with their hands in the till (which marked the ending of several of them).

What I learned from this was is what my dear friend and lawyer, Rob Edwards, taught me: There is no legal contract in the world that can protect you from someone who is not trustworthy. Who you do business with is just as important as what you do in business.

Certainly one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your business is who you put on your team.

Southwest Airlines is widely considered the most successful airline in the industry. (this industry has had a net cumulative loss for a decade). Southwest continues to be profitable year after year. They attribute it more to the people they hire than anything else. So what are their hiring secrets? Most people think it’s bringing aboard people with a positive attitude. Yes, that’s true, but attitude masks the real strategy.

Just as the great sports coaches have learned that not all talented athletes are created equal; so too, not all competent job candidates are created equal. Southwest employees must be competent, but two other qualities are essential: Character and Collaboration.

And Southwest is very particular about who they chose, hiring less than 1% of those people who apply for jobs. As one pilot said: “What we get from the hiring selection process is mutual respect.” Southwest employees are trustworthy – honest and hard working, and they are team players – collaborative and caring.

Senior VP Matt Ridley put it simply: We look for people with integrity, because it is the “most critical leadership quality.” We need people with a strong work ethic, they don’t ask for anything that they wouldn’t do for themselves. They’ve got to treat people right, beyond following the rules, they care about others.

At Southwest, having employees you can trust to do the right thing, every day, every time is one of the most valuable assets (unlike some of their competitors, who see their employees as a liability). These employees are the ones that will make you either a success or a failure.

Robert Porter Lynch

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