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So often, when facing the unknown, we are required to go forward with nothing else to rely on but our own ability to trust. We have to believe that circumstances will get better before they actually improve. In business, in order to generate that kind of faith, we need to be able to trust the partners who support us, as well as the customers we work for. And the best way to create trust is to show that you are trustworthy yourself. As author H.L. Mencken put it: “It is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest, that holds human associations together.”
This delicate balance is explored in this issue’s cover story, “House of Cards” (page 10), which examines how the COVID-19 pandemic might affect the supplier-advisor-client relationship in the future. As the story points out, in some cases, resentments will persist long after the virus has abated, but in other circumstances, it may still be possible to repair these partnerships.
Part of the solution is education. Like it or not, advisors, suppliers and consumers have learned some hard lessons during this crisis. (Will any of us look at an insurance policy or deposit agreement the same way ever again?) But, beyond a better understanding of your legal protections, the memory of how partners treated you when times got tough will probably inform your business decisions for years to come.
If you have a client who acted unreasonably and abused credit card chargebacks to game the system, it’s likely you’ll permanently remove them from your database. Likewise, if a supplier was too rigid and refused to work with you to find a mutually beneficial solution, well, there are plenty of alternatives in who you choose to do business with in the future.
These are the times when actions — rather than good words and intentions — matter the most. To be sure, we are facing an unprecedented health care crisis. At the same time, we are challenged by a crisis of trust, and it’s anyone’s guess which one will have the longer impact.