When Trust Is A 4-Letter Word

Before I started my first business in 1991 my father gave me one piece of advice.

He told me, “Ninety-nine point nine percent of all the people you will meet in business are full of sh*t… and most of them would sell their souls for a dollar.”

The rest, he said, I would have to figure out for myself.

When he told me this I was furious. Why was dad such a frickin’ kill joy? I had been so excited to go into business, build relationships and become happy and successful doing my own thing …why was he spoiling the entire enjoyment of the process? Screw him and screw his advice.

So I went ahead and trusted everybody.

I trusted a factory to do my production, when they didn’t even have the equipment to make it.

I trusted a sales organization who then proceeded to steal my commissions (and my samples).

I trusted the salesperson at the printing facility to credit my account when they overcharged my account.

I trusted the factory with a shipment which they then stole and tried to sell back to me for double the amount.

I trusted the distributor who gave me an order for seven million dollars.

I trusted the investor who agreed to give me four hundred thousand dollars. (I didn’t get sh*t)

I trusted the investor who was giving me a million bucks. (I didn’t get sh*t.)

Truth be told, I trusted people all the way until I faced the judge to declare both corporate and personal bankruptcy. I did NOT, however trust or listen to my pops when he gave me that one single piece of advice before I started my first business.

Hindsight is a Bitch

OK, I get it. I guess I should’ve listened to my father. I only wish I had listened to him before rather than after, as it could have saved the pain of two bankruptcies, moving back with my parents and mopping floors for a year and a half until I started the next business. But we live and learn, right?

Not so much. The same thing happened in my second business. In fact, the same thing happened a few weeks ago when I sent someone money up front to develop my new site and he took my money and then took off. More on that in a moment. The point is, I didn’t even bother to be open to my father’s suggestion. To this day, I think the greatest thing I have learned in business (and in life) the tremendous power of listening. To me, a skilled entrepreneur is a skilled listener.

A Little Friendly Advice

If you are looking forward to starting a new business, this post may be bringing you down in the same way my father brought me down many years ago…but it shouldn’t at all, that isn’t its intention and I haven’t gotten to the moral yet. What I learned (though unfortunately later rather than sooner), is something that I want you to learn sooner, rather than later….

In business, being an “optimist” is optional, but being a “realist” is required. The “real” is that my father was pretty much on target for the most part and both of his comments have proved to be the rule rather than the exception throughout my entire business career.

The truth is, running your own business can be (key words “can” and “be”) a very enjoyable, self-satisfying, adventure, as I would do nothing else, however you must know what you are up against.

Trust Checklist

Trust is something that can only be earned with time. Until then:

1) Trust no one, expect nothing, have no false hopes and no false expectations.

2) Due Diligence- Make sure you do your due diligence and try to find out as much as you can about someone before going into business with them. More simply put, trust but verify.

3) Guilty until proven innocent- Unfortunately, we can’t follow the laws of the courts here as this is your business not the public’s so you must treat people guilty until they prove otherwise. That way you will never be disappointed and only be pleasantly surprised.

4) Take verbal promises with a grain of salt. Pay special attention to the ones that promise you the world, as the talkers never walk, and vice versa…

5) Have people put their money where their mouth is

6) Get as much as humanly possible on paper (or at least make a paper trail via email). Dot every “i”; cross every “t”; wait till the ink is dry; go over your checklist five times…and don’t trust a soul!

No Trusting Does NOT Have To Equal No Fun

Am I Paranoid? Not really. In fact, you can do all of this with a smile on your face and have a great time. Remember, no one has to know you don’t trust them. All you need to do is build the proper defense mechanisms from the start so you don’t get burned.

One final note… I mentioned that I got burned not even two weeks ago. The reason why I mention this is because make zero mistake about it you will get burned. I get burned or lied to in some way or another at least once a month. It happens. You must learn that just like we must live life on life’s terms, we must live business life on business life terms… and when it does happens you must learn to get over it and move on.

Have a great day!



“MJ takes a new and exciting approach on how to teach entrepreneurs.”

Daymond John
Co-host of ABC's, 'Shark Tank'

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