Three years ago, I summited Mount Katahdin with my Uncle Flint.
It was an amazing arduous adventure.
I was so naïve when I started the hike. I thought I was in decent physical shape.
However, the mountain proved much more challenging than I had expected.
On our second day, we started our hiking path brought us to a vertical boulder field.
The boulders all seemed to be 15 feet high. I don’t remember how long the vertical field was, but it felt like it was going on forever.
I got halfway up the boulder field. I admit I wanted to quit.
I looked down. Then I looked up.
I was the straggler in our group of four.
While I struggled to climb above the vertical boulder field, I held on for dear life.
My Uncle Flint and the other two in our hiking party were already at the top of the boulder field enjoying a much-needed rest break.
However, I couldn’t quit. How would I ever live it down that I was a quitter?
Who knows when I would ever have the chance again to hike Mount Katahdin again?
I pushed on trusting my Uncle Flint, that he would help me where I needed help.
We finally made it to the summit of Mount Katahdin. I was relieved and a little nervous.
I had a small fear of heights and wanted to make sure I stayed safe.
The climb down from the summit of Mount Katahdin was almost as challenging as the climb up.
I found myself sliding down on my bum in certain places as I consciously focused on maintaining three points of contact.
Hiking poles saved the day from me on my trek up and down the mountain.
The entire trip I placed my trust in my Uncle Flint, my hiking boots, my Nana’s hiking poles, and the blue trail markers.
The whole notion of trust is something that has continuously been reinforced throughout my business career.
I’ve had to trust other people. I’ve had to earn people’s trust.
I’ve had instances where people stopped having trust in me.
One of the things I realized many times is once someone no longer trusts me, winning that trust back is nearly impossible.
Trust is the very fabric of the business world.
When someone purchases from me, they are taking a risk and placing trust in me that I will deliver on the promises I’ve made to them.
One of the most important lessons I learned from business school was a phrase Dr. Lynda Aiman-Smith shared with me.
“All business is built on personal relationships.”
I was thrust headlong into the reality that trust is a critical component of business from the first days of starting my accounting practice.
I recognized early on that I was dealing with people’s money.
I knew that money was one of the most sensitive areas of a person’s life.
I further recognized that asking someone to trust me when the first met me was a fool’s errand.
So, I decided to take a different approach.
I sought to get to know people first. Then I nurtured the relationship with them.
I remember the primary way I nurtured relationships with people was attending a number of the same networking events every month.
I would see the same people over and over again. Eventually, I started to make friends with these people. Once that happened, a few people took a chance on me.
Those early customers ended up being the seeds of my business.
I did good work for them and started to establish a good reputation.
A good reputation naturally led to new business.
There were times I got frustrated that business growth was not as quick as I would have liked.
However, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I was committed to being the best accountant I could be.
I wasn’t going to give up.
In those early days of my business, I was in a similar situation that I found myself in while I was climbing the vertical boulder field on Mount Katahdin.
I could quit. I had to keep progressing.
There’s something to be said for longevity in a business.
I’ve seen many businesses tout how they been in business for 15, 20, or 25 years.
Believe me, if a business makes it past five years that is a tremendous accomplishment.
A small minority of businesses are capable of enduring past five years.
No matter how much a business grows, it always runs into several glass ceilings.
The glass ceilings are deceptive.
One can see right through the glass ceiling.
However, until the business owner can break the glass ceiling, the business will be stuck.
One of the biggest reasons businesses get stuck is a lack of trust.
There are two primary areas where a lack of trust occurs.
Customers Don’t Trust You
As a business grows, the systems that made the successful business break down. The systems are only strong enough to handle a specific capacity of customers.
When systems break down, quality suffers, which lowers the customer experience.
Many companies that never had customer retention issues start to lose customers.
As the business grows, the business owner becomes overwhelmed with work and is no longer able to provide the facetime with the original customers that helped in the beginning days of the business.
New growth requires investment in marketing and sales.
The whole purpose of marketing and sales is to build relationships of trust with people you’ve never met before.
The effort required to gain people’s trust is a herculean effort that requires a simple, concise message of why someone should buy from the business.
I had lunch with someone recently and asked him who his ideal client was.
He replied with the stupidest response, “I can work with anyone.”
I replied that if he wanted to work with anyone, he would never make any money.
He later told me that he wanted to work with high-net-worth individuals.
The last time I met with this individual, he shared with me that he was working out of his house.
When we met a few days ago, he told me he was still working out of his home.
I then asked him where he met people. He replied that he met with people at a coffee shop.
I then shared with him that there was a disconnect between his actions and the customers he wanted to work with.
He was in a business that required privacy. The last time I checked, a coffee shop is not a private place to talk about sensitive private information.
Our actions must be aligned with the message we present to our customers.
Something as simple as not having a professional office space could be a deal killer when working with some customers.
Team Members Don’t Trust You
Lack of trust between business leaders and team members of the business is a common problem in many companies.
The most prominent person to blame for lack of trust is the business owner.
President Harry S. Truman popularized the phrase, “The buck stops here.”
A business owner must take 100% responsibility for everything that occurs in a business.
This may sound extreme. However, it is 100% true.
When something does not work, it is the business owner’s fault.
The cause could be any number of reasons. Ultimately, a lack of leadership by the business owner is the cause of failure in business.
When I realized I was 100% responsible for everything in my business, it freed me.
No longer could I play the victim card.
I couldn’t blame my employees. It was my fault that things weren’t working.
Either I hired the wrong person, or I put the right person in the wrong position.
I didn’t train them well enough. I didn’t hold them accountable.
I didn’t keep my word to them as I should have.
I’ve had many failings I’ve had. I accept I was the cause of those failings.
Here’s the best part of being 100% responsible for everything in my business.
If I am the cause of the failures, then I can make changes that will lead to successes.
When I run into times when my business is stuck, I recognize that I am where I am because that is what I have earned.
When I’m stuck, I take responsibility for my stuck status.
I then ask two all-important questions:
- Who doesn’t trust me?
- Why don’t they trust me?
Then I listen for answers and begin to make changes to my approach so I can earn their trust.