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The secret sauce of a successful business -TRUST

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

By: Doris Hager, Principal of Hager Design International Inc.

Stephen M.R. Covey coined this phrase “Business moves at the speed of trust”. Catchy title and Stephen defined it as – “Trust always affects two measurable outcomes: speed and cost. When trust goes down—in a relationship, on a team, in a company, in an industry, with a customer—speed decreases with it.” What a true statement! All business relationships are built on trust. The level of trust is dependent on the type of transaction, amount of money or reputation involved. I don’t believe there is any long term relationship that is not built on some type of trust.


Let’s look at a supplier relationship. If one is buying a widget the depth of the relationship is simply based on the price of the widget and that it will be delivered on time. If the supplier does not deliver as promised the relationship most likely will not continue past the first transaction. How many of us have ordered something only for it not to arrive on time, doesn’t work, is damaged, or the customer service is horrible?

When there is distrust, we lose confidence and it can happen in an instant. Doubt creates that nagging feeling which makes one suspicious and slows us down.

However, if the supplier delivers as promised the relationship potentially continues and if there is a need, could go on for many years. Hence Amazon is so successful. They spell out when they will deliver in clear terms and 9 out of 10 times it arrives. Returns are easy and the supply and variety of products is endless. There is the trust that I can buy my widget at the price stated and it will arrive as promised again, again and again.


A relationship built on a service is more complex and must run deeper. A true connection must be made between the client and the consultant providing the service. Yes, we know what we have to offer, and it is easy to assume the client does as well. The client only knows their business. It is up to us to demonstrate that we know ours and that they can trust us to have their best interest at heart.

We had a project where the relationship started with the grandson who was running the project for the grandfather - the principal investor. Trust was established with the grandson and we followed clear instructions when proceeding with the project. The grandfather took the backseat, was rarely available for any consultation directly with us and direction was given via employees. Then the grandfather decided to take over the project himself, as a trust issue developed between the grandfather and the grandson.

As the relationship never really was established with the grandfather and well underway the contract was assumed by the grandfather and we continued. However, trust with now, the new decision maker, was never established as we did not have direct access to this man. We received instructions from his employees that filtered the information through their eyes and ears.

Needless to say, the relationship soured. The grandfather assumed our role differently than was negotiated and we eventually parted ways. This left a sour taste on both sides and a dent in our wallets and pride. However, it taught us that our business is only as good as the depth of our relationships.


Clients instinctively feel if you ‘get them’ and have their backs and this is important. How do we prove that we are trustworthy? The best way, we deliver what we promise! Yes, business is about money and commerce but its also about feelings and instincts. Not just that the other person trusts us but our own feelings and instincts, do we trust them? Are our spidey senses tingling? As well do we trust ourselves that we can deliver and do as we promise? Trust truly is in everything.

Without trust there is suspicion. All actions are questioned, worry sets in – can they deliver, will they deliver on time, how much will it cost in money and time if they don’t deliver? All valid concerns. Can you see how the lack of trust slows down all transactions and blocks relationships from flourishing naturally and accomplishing goals.

In order to trust, there must be transparency. We are all humans, and we do our best every day, but sometimes we make mistakes. The stronger the relationship the more the two sides will work together to come up with a solution for the error or missed information. If the relationship has broken down, or there is not a high level of trust, everything is questioned, and blame starts being thrown around. Admitting a mistake or demonstrating the willingness to correct it shows strength and togetherness and continuous to promote trust.

If I look at my own experience with our company I see that the business transactions with clients were the trust level was low these were the projects with the most headaches. This cost the company considerable money, either through extra labor on our part to constantly justify our decisions or through battles to get paid. This is why I created the Image Partner process. It allows me to gain access to all decision makers wishes and goals and directs our team quickly to deliver the right concept the first time. Most importantly it establishes trust at the beginning with all people involved on the client’s side that we don’t necessarily engage with when negotiating the deal. Everyone is heard and feels part of the team and is ready to work together from the start.

The faster we can build trust, the faster we can get on with business on both sides. Trust is built on keeping our word, delivering as promised and truly caring about the people we are engaging with. Their well-fare, their interests and that the trust they have placed in us is valid. Once again Stephen M.R. Covey – “If trust is up, speed will go up and cost will go down”.

As I look around the world, trust is the most important element in my day and how it shapes my positive outlook on life. By trusting my clients we maintain our reputation and continue our financial well being, Through trusting our team, we build a stronger organization and delivery. Through trust in my husband I have a strong and solid foundation and loving home.

How about your life? How do the relationships you have with close friends, family and in business affect your every day? Are these relationships built on trust? Are your days affected on the amount of trust you place in them or they have in you?

As always, I welcome your feedback and look forward to you sharing your experiences with me.


Doris Hager is the founder of Hager Design International Inc. an international interior design firm with hospitality projects throughout North America. Doris can be reached at



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