Trust is the foundation of every entrepreneurial act we do, whether we want it to be or not. Anyone at a corporation, from the CEO to the janitorial staff, gains credibility from affiliation. Independents only gain creditability from their word, and that reputation is as fragile as glass.
My Inc. colleague Susan Steinbrecher recently shared four phrases that can gain you instant trust. Equally important are these three actions that can have your reputation evaporate.
1. Overpromising and underdelivering: We usually don't plan on giving an underwhelming experience, but it's terribly easy to promise results based on our intentions and not our capabilities. An excellent example is Clinkle, a buzzed-about financial startup that sunk under its own stated expectations. The founders got $30 million with the promise of revolutionizing the mobile wallet, but the idealized goals didn't match up when they started showing the app.
Solution: Gain strength from sharing your intention, but keep your actual goals modest and reachable. It is better to gain trust and respect slowly than to potentially blow it with one false promise.
2. Remind people what you've done for them: There are few things worse than telling someone that they owe you. The biggest loss, however, may be the trust that person has in working with you ever again. As I shared recently, "The worst case scenario is someone expecting credit well after the deed is done - and that can build old resentment in the doer and new resentment in the receiver."
Solution: If you don't trust someone enough to think they will appreciate your help, then don't help them. Bringing up your good deed later will make you the bad guy - whether they appreciated the gesture or not.
3. Sign them up for something: Never push a colleague into a situation without choice. The most benign version of this is signing people up for your email blast without prior consent, but it can get much uglier. For instance, I've had a (former) associate do an online introduction to a stranger with the promise of letting them "pick my brain". His quick email could have cost me time I would be spending on my business.
Solution: It often takes five to 20 seconds to touch base with a respected contact about a potential opportunity. Just ask them first.