Trust can be hard to find in any business environment, especially in the volatile retail real estate world. After the industry shenanigans of 2008, many professionals in this field have found it twice as hard to build relationships. Many lenders struggled to trust borrowers, and many professionals fled the industry, not trusting that retail real estate could recover this time. Now, in 2017, trust is still at the forefront, as many brick-and-mortar retailers are quickly losing their once loyal consumers.
YPO Atlanta chapter chair and managing director of The Shopping Center Group, Jonathan Dubovsky, believes that you should think twice before counting out brick-and-mortar businesses because their survival depends on your trust, and much can be learned from their example on maintaining trust in your own relationships.
Dubovsky has seen the power of trust firsthand. When he moved into a management position with The Shopping Center Group in 2005, it was during a retail real estate boom with years of unprecedented success. “As the leader of a business line, I attended meetings a hero as our revenue and market share grew exponentially. Then in December 2007, the world stopped,” he said. When the tidal wave of bad economic news washed out, it left the whole industry high and dry and many in the company wondering what their future might look like.
It was then that he came to realize what trust truly looks like, and the effort that goes into building it. “I had to trust that my team was committed to giving of their very best and put the organization’s goals ahead of their own. My team had to trust that I had a well-conceived strategy, was competent in my execution, would embrace transparent communication, and would continue to conduct business with integrity. Our customers had to trust that they were still working with an organization that was committed to providing the very highest levels of service.”
By committing to being genuinely trustworthy, Dubovsky, his line and team, and the company were able to weather the crisis. In 2009, The Shopping Center Group celebrated its twenty-fifth year in business, still primarily focused on bricks and mortar retail. When they closed the books on 2016, it was their highest revenue year ever, and 2017 is forecast to be even better.
According to Dubovsky, trust is at the epicenter of a triangle formed by the organization, its employees, and its customers. The flow of trust is not one way, but multi-directional. It begins, of course, with taking the right steps to create honesty and transparency:
· Doing what you say you will do,
· upholding fair practices, and
· being vulnerable and transparent.
How can you tell when you have mastered these behaviors? Dubovsky believes that there clear signs to indicate that your company has become truly trustworthy. You can look for these to confirm that you have got it right:
1. Employees stay put and give it all they’ve got.
“The most obvious indicator is that there is no mass exodus or absenteeism problem,” Dubovsky points out. “You will likely also see employees voluntarily put in longer hours and expend greater energy and passion without voicing an expectation for anything in return.”
People understand that their chances for success and happiness are better when they believe in what they are doing.
2. Customers stay put.
“It’s also an obvious indicator is that you don’t lose customers en masse,” he laughs.
3. Employees do instead of dwell.
Dubovsky explains, “When they have faith, your team won’t dwell on controversial company decisions but acknowledge and move on to more productive use of time and energy.” Personal agendas give way to prioritizing team success because people know that all succeed or fail together. If your workforce has an “us vs. them” attitude where the company, not external obstacles, is the enemy, then you have not built trust.
4. Customers let you skip some of the formalities.
When they like you well enough to stick around, “buyers stop demanding some of the early relationship formalities,” he insists. When they know your value, you don’t have to continually prove yourself to maintain their goodwill.
5. For each problem, a solution appears.
Not magically, of course…but Dubovsky believes that trust allows employees to bring their A-game on every occasion. “Positivity, creativity and innovation dominate conversations with a focus on problem solving and value creation.” When people become solution-driven, that shows their investment in your company’s growth and success.
6. More and better customers appear.
The more they trust you, the more often buyers come to you. They bring their friends, and they try new things. If they like you well enough, “They may even ask you to engage with them outside of your core competency or geography. When a customer treats you as a partner, opening the kimono to allow you greater insight into and access to their organization, then you know you’ve got it right.”
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