“5 million yen ($50,000) isn’t a lot of money. But this is a new business venture, and I’d look pretty stupid if you went to Hawaii. Are you going to Hawaii with this 5 million yen?”
….he asked me with a half-smile. For the deal to proceed, the client had to put down 5 million yen to order equipment that would allow us to set up his Tokyo office.
Contrary to my client, I think $50,000 is quite a lot of money to give someone you’ve known for 6 months, especially when they’re a foreigner, they’re not associated with a company, they have no ties to the country, and could be on a plane to Hawaii in 4 hours flat. However within a day, the money was in my account, and the project was underway.
This client’s trust in me propelled me from being unemployed, to building the groundwork for my new company by helping me win one of my first deals.
That was 7 years ago. These days, I aim to build the same level of trust in hours, in order to do even larger deals, often without even having a face to face meeting.
Before I detail specifics, something that goes without saying, but bears repeating :
Never build trust on a false premise. If you may not be able to deliver, you must disclose this information, or you will risk a relationship break that may never recover.
The first project I managed, I had no experience on a wide range of tasks, all of which were critical to the project. I was keen to do the project but also uncomfortably cognisant of the problems I would inadvertently create. At the same time, I had to do the job, since I needed the money, and I needed my start.
So, I went to the client and said :
“I’m really excited to work on this project, and get you set up. Now, I’ve got various experience in IT, but important aspects in this project are new to me. What I can promise you, is that I’ll do my absolute best. When I make a mistake, which I probably will, I will fix it FAST. On top of that, I’ll give you an incredible deal on the whole project. I wanted to be upfront and clear with you about this, but if this is alright, I’m ready to get started immediately.”
He accepted. I gave him a great deal, and I learned a lot. I also made a lot of mistakes, and I fixed them quickly. In the end, because I was upfront about my shortcomings, I maintained the trust I built, and we continued working together for several years before he changed companies.
Effective Ways to Build Trust
When someone is considering working with you on any kind of business deal, your objective must be to build as much trust as possible, as authentically, and quickly as you can. Here are three ways of doing this.
Do what you say you’ll do
This is the simplest and most effective way to build trust.
The world is full of unreliable people. Show you’re different from the crowd by ensuring you follow through on your basic promises.
- If you say you’ll send the document by 5pm, make certain you send it by 4:30pm.
- If you promise to send $x by Friday, send $x by Thursday if possible, Friday at the latest.
Following through on small things displays your ability and propensity to follow through on large and important things.
When the situation changes and you’re unable to fulfill your promise, maintain the trust by disclosing immediately.
Reference a Successful Relationship With a Similar Client
Foreign companies that are looking to select their Japan IT partner have to place an especially significant amount of trust in vendor. Often, without even meeting a company face to face, they have to trust in the vendors ability to :
- supply professional, experienced staff members able to operate bi-culturally
- manage and deliver a complex project
- bill fairly, and honestly.
- since the client is often not in Japan, they have no way of knowing what hours were actually worked.
- protect the clients interests and confidential information.
A company performing due diligence on their vendor selection are constantly looking for reasons to either disqualify or select a company.
To an American client facing extreme time pressure to set up an office in Tokyo, a simple sentence such as :
“We recently had another client from New York with a similar challenge. They needed to setup their office in 3 and a half weeks because they were awarded a Japan contract, and they needed to have an office set up as quickly as possible.
The leadtime on their required internet connection was 6 weeks, but we were able to call in some favours from our local cabling vendors, and we install cabling and a high-speed ADSL connection that got them through their first one month of business.
After the project, we signed a support contract, and we still support them today.”
This sentence builds trust for a variety of reasons :
- We’ve done work with similar clients from similar areas.
- We establish ourselves as an authority in Japan.
- We were able to complete a complex project in a very tight timeframe. This creates an expectation on our ability to deliver the project.
- The company chose to continue to work with us after the project.
Now the vendor has a number of compelling reasons to select us over the competition.
Do the right thing, especially when it’s difficult
Much as the world is full of unreliable people, the world is also full of self-centered people who will screw you if it benefits them.
Finding someone who does the right thing when it’s personally or professionally difficult for them is very rare. Someone who does the right thing when it’s financially difficult for them is equivalent to finding a gemstone in the Sahara desert.
The amount of trust you build is directly correlated with the difficulty of your situation when you do the right thing by someone. Your short term loss will translate into incredible future opportunities when you’re surrounded by people who know you’ll do the right thing no matter the situation.
Best of luck building your company or startup. Drop me a line and let me know how you go.