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How To Rebuild Trust In Business


Last week, the Baseball Hall Of Fame announced that, for the first time in 17 years, not a single retired player had earned the sport’s highest honor.

Was that because there were just no potential honorees to be found who had achieved suitable numbers?

Quite the contrary – this year’s candidate pool included one of the top hitters (Barry Bonds) and top pitchers (Roger Clemens) of all time, among several other statistical superstars.

Another all-time sports great, Lance Armstrong, was splashed all over the news for finally admitting what everyone already knew: that he lied and cheated throughout his entire career.

The playing days of these athletes are over. There’s no longer any opportunity for them to cheat. Yet they are still unable to regain the public’s trust.

Why? Because that requires more than simply ceasing the trust-breaking activity.

Here are some expert recommendations on how to regain trust in business…

“The best way to begin rebuilding trust is to honestly admit your mistake first and ask for forgiveness.”
– Cathy Alford, How Can You Begin Rebuilding Trust After Breaking It In Business?

“Take responsibility. Own up to what is yours to own. Determine the lessons learned and the actions you can take to improve the current situation. Hold yourself accountable, plus help others take responsibility and hold themselves accountable, too.”
– Dennis Reina and Michelle Reina, Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace

“The best way to protect the organization’s reputation in the short and long term is by investing in its relationships with key stakeholders. This approach foregoes some of the obvious defensive legal reactions in favor of transparency, candor, and taking responsibility – even if this means submitting to apologies and regret, and making costly reparations.”
– Dr. Graham Dietz, How To Rebuild Trust In Business

“Before business can redefine growth, it must first restore trust which is a key part of a company’s license to operate.”
– Clare Melford, Seven Steps Companies Can Take To Rebuild Trust

“Commit to transparency, truth and a positive movement forward.”
– Libby Wagner, Rebuilding Trust: What’s it Worth?

“Take the risk of being open with clients and prospects. Whether the news is good or bad, people will trust you more when you are consistently honest…. Strive to make each customer feel as though his issues really matter to you.”
– David Allen, Building Trust in Business Relationships

“People don’t learn without feedback – open, honest and constructive feedback. Leaders are not different. And that type of feedback is only possible when leaders trust and value the opinions and ideas of their stakeholders… If you’re not listening to your people, considering their ideas, assessing their views and welcoming their criticisms, you’re not doing a good job as a leader.”
– Carol Stephenson, Rebuilding Trust: The Integral Role Of Leadership In Fostering Values, Honesty And Vision

Among other things, these experts all recommend the company’s leaders engage in honesty and transparency, listening to and valuing the concerns of their customers, employees and vendors.

As it so happens, just like retired athletes, not all business leaders decide to heed this expert advice.

Here, just one example very close to home…

As followers of this blog well know, GKIC, a company that I had recommended, promoted and championed for over four years, consistently broke my trust, and that of my members, in various ways over the past nine months, including having its employees secretly make calls to people they thought were my best members to spread lies and enlist their help to undermine my business.

I defended and saved my business by being transparent and honest with my members.

Last week I wrote a letter to the new CEO, and having not yet received the courtesy of a reply, yesterday I called another of GKIC’s leaders with the goal of putting an end to the months-long war they started against my business and me.

This executive let me know that the company would cease its attack on my business by canceling its January monthly workshop and all future competing Chicago workshops as well.

But instead of accepting responsibility and engaging in accountability, this company leader instead was quick to simply blame the company’s departed CEO (maybe because this tactic was used so well in the recent presidential campaign regarding the subject of our anemic national economy?) for waging its war against me and my business.

Instead of choosing to be honest and transparent about the company’s acts of poor judgment in trying to destroy my business, this leader belittled the concerns of me and my members, saying that to admit the company’s poor judgment “would just be silly” and would be “hate-mongering.”

And so the story ends in one way… while it continues in another.

Just like the retired cheating athletes, the company has vowed to cease its underhanded activities.

And that’s great news.

But also just like the fallen superstars, it refuses to take steps to regain its lost trust.

And that’s a shame.

So the battle ends.

But the distrust continues.

Such is a sad, all-too-common story of our times…

What do you think? Will any of these once-respected stars ever take the right steps to rebuild their lost trust – Bonds, Clemens, Armstrong, GKIC?

I’d love to read your comment below.

5 Responses to How To Rebuild Trust In Business

  1. Felicia Slattery Reply

    January 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Hi Steve-
    Great link between the fallen athletes and the fallen corporation.

    Taking responsibility for missteps, mistakes, or egregious errors has to be the first step in rebuilding trust. Otherwise, it seems like the entity involved wants to keep passing the buck. The athletes’ position has long been, “everybody else is doing it,” which completely shirks responsibility for the decisions they made. Sounds like the same has happened with GKIC making that past CEO the scapegoat, rather than assuming responsibility as a company.

    It doesn’t hurt at all to say, “I was wrong,” unless you count a blow to the ego. The times I’ve made mistakes in my own business I was very open and candid about what I messed up and what I learned from it. And each time I was always surprised at the level of support I received, simply by admitting to a problem I created by goofing something up wildly.

    Maybe GKIC isn’t taking notice (they’d be fools not to, but so far it looks like they are a ship of fools), but I know smart folks are paying attention and learning from this huge, Titanic-sized shipwreck.

  2. Mr. Transparent Reply

    January 30, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    Interesting post, coming from a guy who repeatedly linked from his Crain’s blog posts to partner sites from which he stood to financially gain, without disclosing this financial interest to his readership. Transparent and honest indeed! Perhaps this is why you were unceremoniously dismissed from Crain’s, you duplicitous prick.

    • Steve Sipress Reply

      January 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm


      As it so happens, I was never given an official reason why Crain’s chose to no longer publish my blog posts.

      However, the “new” editor who made that decision did tell me that he disagreed with the deal the previous editor had made with me.

      She had informed me that, since Crain’s doesn’t pay bloggers for their contributions, we were encouraged to include links in our posts. (“As many as you want” was what I was told, when Crain’s was first attempting to convince me to become a regular contributor. And I’m surprised to hear they don’t disclose that to their readers.)

      However, of course, the Crain’s editors retained complete control over any and all of the content I submitted every week, and could have chosen to exclude any of my links, at entirely their own discretion.

      Instead, the new editor simply chose to cancel the agreement the previous editor had made with me (and others, as I was told).

      I don’t believe there was ever anything “duplicitous” on the part of anyone involved. Simply a new Crain’s editor instituting a new policy for their bloggers.

      Which, of course, they had a right to do.

      They lost the most popular contributor to their “Enterprise City” blog, but I’m sure they’re doing just fine.

      *And, ironically, the sites I linked to most often were those owned by GKIC.

  3. Henry Alegria Reply

    January 31, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Does duplicitous mean “huge,Titanic sized” ?

    I have never understood why someone would not leave their real name when they are being tough. That’s like ding song ditch.

    Anyway back to the post, I think apologies are BS because they are rarely sincere especially in business .

    Armstrong apologized only to profit from the story and become the guy who made a mistake and now is a good boy and he can make millions telling others “don’t cheat it ain’t worth it” ( even though he wouldn’t be where he is without it).

    This country and people have become WAY to sensitive with companies and people “having” to apologize to the public just to save face even when they don’t mean it i.e Tiger Woods , Tracy Morgan.

    The life leason for everyone is that There will always be competition and people gunning for you, there will always be someone with more money and resources than you so entrepreneurs need to have strategies to compete and that’s what you and GKIC teach.

    Personally I would not start a business fight with Dan Kenned but that’s me. Lol

    Luckily there is an abundance of business for everyone!

    • Steve Sipress Reply

      January 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      I agree with you 100%, Henry. Nobody wants a “BS” apology.

      But sincere ones definitely work to repair relationships — personal, and in business — in my opinion.

      For example, once Pete Rose, Michael Vick, David Letterman, Marv Albert and others came clean to the American public, the animosity against them greatly subsided, and in many cases they were able to regain lost trust.

      And there are countless similar examples.

      Maybe Armstrong will someday make a more sincere apology, and will also regain favor with the American public.

      After all, as President George W. Bush said in his second inaugural address, “ours is a nation of second chances.”

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