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Without Trust,
Life is Not Worth Living

-- Confucius

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The Most Important Thing you Didn’t Learn in Business School

As an entrepreneur, I’ve been a student of the school of hard knocks, and learned a lot of things I didn’t learn in business school. Comparing the real world with the academic experience, one major “thing” stands out that was absolutely untouched by the curriculum, unexplored in books, and vaguely hinted at in discussions that was so important to my success, or failure.

In fact, the mysterious thing was almost a taboo subject; something of a quandary that no course in finance, marketing, procurement, entrepreneurship, or organizational behavior even discussed. Professors didn’t lecture about this thing, either because they knew nothing about it, or perhaps it was never part of their training. Apparently the professors that preceded them never were illuminated about the thing, even though it was so important that it could spell the difference between success or failure, happiness or misery, expansion or contraction.

What was this almighty yet elusive thing you never explored? TRUST! The academic experts and the seasoned practitioners all agreed it was the essential ingredient to success, but when you asked them to elaborate, all we heard was a bunch of platitudes: Overly simplistic words of advice that were misleading at best.

  • “Trust but verify,”
  • “Trust must be earned,”
  • “Build an escape clause,”
  • “Start small, then expand,”
  • “Speak softly but carry a big stick,”
  • “Be ever vigilant,”
  • “Don’t trust, just be sure you have a great lawyer and a tight contract,” or
  • “Focus on interests”

To me these comments all but useless in creating sustainable trust. Often the platitudes were contradictory, irrelevant, inapplicable, or downright inappropriate, irritating, and counter-productive.

And, as I went through life in business I found I still got screwed too much. No number of lawyers or armor-plated contracts made me safe. I lost a lot of time, money, and idealism. It stung. I got ripped off by customers, vendors, and employees.

When employees stole from me, I’d find ways to catch them. I even had two different employees arrested, hand-cuffed, and hauled off to jail, thinking that such a display of my terror would stop anyone from even thinking about doing something distrustful.

I tried what every major corporation was doing: plastering the walls with the “Values Statements.” Well, the walls looked pretty, but still nothing changed.

When I asked other entrepreneurs about their experience, they told me similar stories. In short, no one had a good strategy for dealing with the trust issue. Guess the professors avoided the issue because no one seemed to have a clue.

For this reason I embarked on a journey to find out what causes of distrust were and what to do about it. Stay tuned for more blogs that will show you how to “crack the trust code.”

  • Robert Porter Lynch

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