Beyond the Build


How Trust Affects Business

This week, we were finalizing a contract with a first-time customer when a breakout number of the total contract value changed by a relatively small amount. Our project manager felt the customer was under stress for other reasons. This difference troubled the customer, who asked our project manager if he could be trusted, point blank.

It was such an insignificant amount that his response honestly surprised our PM, but he then remembered the customer’s circumstances. He responded in the appropriate way, saying, “Mr. ____, I need to ask you to trust us. This is our first job together, but it’s not going to be our last. I know I have to earn your confidence. Please trust me and I’ll get us through it.”

We’ll fulfill our end of the bargain, and hopefully have a loyal customer because of it.

Earning trust is certainly important, but so is maintaining it.  A couple of years ago, we were working on an extremely complicated civil project involving underground storm water retention and the redevelopment of an urban in-fill site. Our customer was a very successful business person in his eighties. At the conclusion of the project, at our final meeting, I asked “Would you like to review a breakdown of our final budget numbers before we start?” He said, “No, Merrill, I trust you.”

Being trusted is better than any contract I have ever signed. It also puts a lot more pressure on us, but to me this is a challenge I would take any day.

The net/net? I’ve mentioned before my involvement with the Boy Scouts of America and, no matter how much they may be in the news lately, I believe in this solid organization as a character builder. I take the Scout Law to heart, particularly the first words: “A scout is trustworthy…”

Whether buying or selling, when trust is stressed on both sides, it sure leads to a lot more success. Trust is the first word of the Scout Law, and if we can match it up with 2 or 3 of the qualities remaining–loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent–regardless of your business plan, I think it all will lead to success.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.