The role of trust in business collaboration

We recently came across a survey compiled by Cisco Systems and the Economist entitled The role of trust in business collaboration. That title caught our eye. After all, in our business of corporate trading, trust in the collaborative process is THE most critical component of sales success.

The survey was conducted with 453 business, mostly from North America in which more than half worked for companies with over $10bn in revenue. Download the survey by clicking this link.

We've received some interesting opinions on the subject of trust in collaboration as we've shared this survey on our Facebook page and through emailing colleagues and friends. In the feedback we've received, trust seems to be a vanishing commodity in business. One response lamented that, "Trust started at the top of the house… we used to trust our Government and we used to trust the companies we worked for. Adherence to regulations/laws has eroded trust and profits." Another reflected that, "15 years ago, when I first started, the sale was a one to one sale where the relationship and "likability" was most important. Today, they are still very important factors. However, selling today is extremely complex with multiple parties (usually from multiple departments ie: marketing, sourcing, finance, etc) involved in the process. One really needs to touch all these people on every level in order to close."

My interpretation of that last comment is that, while decades ago, decisions could be made and business relationships could be forged by one person within a large organization, decisions now are made largely by committee. Is that the result of a lack of trust in the individuals within the organization? Maybe. Is it due, as the above commentator states, to more and more regulations and laws? Maybe. There are likely several reasons why trust is eroding in our business relationships.

One telling aspect of the survey regarded the subject of an egregious breach of trust. To quote the report, "Clear-cut breaches of trust, such as an illicit act, were more widely, although not universally, condemned. Though one might reasonably expect 100% of respondents to say an act such as embezzlement would torpedo collaboration, the actual number was only 88%.

Have we become so numb to breaches of trust that we are now willing to continue a collaboration with people guilty of illicit acts such as embezzlement? I hope not. This acceptance is not a sign of trust, but sadly, I believe it is a sign of its opposite.

Give us your thoughts on this subject. Whether internal collaboration or collaboration with your clients and vendors, where do you think we're heading in terms of trust within your business relationships? What are you seeing?




About Mike Lake

Mike is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Evergreen Trading. When not playing jazz trombone he is probably obsessing about writing content that will capture the attention and interest of business people and fellow learning junkies everywhere.

Comments ::

  1. The secret to trust in business is not to compromise on integrity as a way of doing business. To me the idea that there's a lack of trust in business today suggests a willingness to do business without regard to the quality of the client and perhaps a willingness to compromise one's own integrity to just "make a buck".

    Regards the "committee" aspect of making business decisions, if employees are empowered to make decisions within a framework of honesty and a corporate mandate to build trust, successful on-going business is mostly a certainty. 

    Regards the potential willingness to tolerate a shady past (i.e, embezzlement), one cannot NOT do business and how would we know the embezzler has not repented? By the same token how will we know the new client is worthy of trust? We have to do business with caution. We have to move slowly into a business relationship. Trust is part and parcel with long term business.

    If you are selling your brand, your reputation, build trust. If you are selling ripe bananas, get the cash.Trust, and the open communication that supports it between customers, vendors, employees and management is the most basic element of long term business viability.It always flows down from the top. If management leadership does not have integrity, trust cannot happen. Please note I said "management leadership". "Leadership" is the requirement. The quality of leadership flows to essential elements like trust. 

  2. I agree that trust factor of a brand flows from the top. I would add that even if you are selling "ripe bananas", your buyers still must have trust in your organization. The sales of Dole bananas will fall if we don't trust the quality of the product. I also belive that their sales would fall if the market learned that some high ranking officer of the company was caught doing some illicit act.

    We, as consumers, care about such things, and our ethics dictate our purchasing decisions.

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