Kossoff on... Trust -- the ultimate commodity

Trust is a make or break for any business. It is a given that if there is no trust between you and your customer or supplier, your business relationship won't last long.

In a down cycle - particularly one as long and deep as this - that logic exists on steroids. No trust, no possibilities. Ever. Making it worse is that people are scared. The talking heads keep talking about jobless recoveries, lagging indicators and rampant inflation. They bring fear into every corner of every person's life.

That makes trust the ultimate consumer commodity. And that means you have to make sure you deliver on every promise and over-perform wherever possible. You also have to manage your message. One of the best examples of this is organics versus genetically modified (GM).

Organic produce feels safe to people because it is presented as "natural". By extension, that makes it healthy. People trust organic food and its growers. Conversely, GM food is perceived as "science" - funded by corporations (for profit), studied by academics (for funding) and potentially adopted by growers (for profit). That makes GM, and everyone involved in it, untrustworthy in the public's eyes.

For conventional growers, the language of pesticides creates an untrustworthy image. You spend your lives producing the healthiest product possible, yet because the pesticides argument is left to the regulators and politicians to decide, growers end up being presented as avaricious and uncaring of anything but their own wallets.

It is time to look hard at your business's trustworthiness and the image you present. As an industry, you also need to look at how you are being presented from within and without.

There are big wins out there yet to be achieved. It will be much easier to do so if you bring the public with you - and that is achieved through trust.

Leslie L Kossoff is an executive adviser specialising in strategy and corporate turnaround.

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