Trust As Currency

The economy doesn’t run on money–it runs on trust, and so does your business. Here’s how to bolster your balance.

Trust As Currency

Trust, not money, is the currency of business and life. In a climate of trust, people are more creative, motivated, productive, and willing to sacrifice for the team. What happens when a business gains the trust edge? Every aspect of business becomes more profitable. Customers will pay more, tell others, and come back. With suppliers whom you trust, one call is enough. Delivery time and costs decrease because there is less double-checking, paperwork, and follow-up.


The High Cost of Suspicion

Skepticism and suspicion create the opposite of trust and destroy motivation, teamwork, and results. Skepticism brings everything into question, slows processes, and promotes suspicion. America’s public climate has been pervaded by suspicion. For just a glimpse of how this has happened, consider insurance scandals, misconduct by the governors of New York and Illinois, the mortgage and banking meltdown, financial fraud, Ponzi schemes, the Big Three automakers’ failings, executive greed that has bilked investors and employees, food contaminations, and athletes hiding drug use. It is no wonder suspicion is soaring. There is a cost.

In fact, research from a study of 453 buyer-supplier relationships of automakers dealing in three countries (Japan, South Korea, and the United States), gave empirical evidence of the economic value of trust. The research found that the automakers’ transaction costs were five times higher with the least trusted supplier than with the most trusted supplier. Further, with the least trusted suppliers, face-to-face interaction time doubled. Low trust revealed a need to spend more time and resources for communication, negotiation, and compliance. High trust led to greater information sharing and a willingness to sacrifice for the partner.

Trust Score

Your credit score is really a trust score. If a bank trusts you on the basis of your past financial responsibility, then you will get a higher score and pay less for a loan. In fact, I just asked my mortgage broker what the cost of a loan is today using different credit (trust) scores. She said if you have a score of 720, which is not terribly high, you can get a thirty-year mortgage at 4.75 percent. However, if your credit score is 640, which is not terribly low, the best loan you can get would be at 7.25 percent. That means the less-trusted buyer will pay over $115,000 more on the same $200,000 mortgage. If you were to buy a $500,000 house and had the lower credit score you would pay nearly $300,000 more over the course of the loan–and that does not account for the higher payments for insurance because of the lower credit score. The more you are trusted, the less you pay!

Radio Returns


Most podcasts or blogs never lead to any more than a little extra pocket cash. One podcaster has beaten the odds with a most unusual approach. Canadian Stefan Molyneux is the innovative host of Freedomain Radio, the largest philosophy podcast on the Internet with over 4 million Internet views per year. Molyneux has released over 1,200 podcasts and at least seven books completely free of charge. How does such a model produce any profit?

Freedomain Radio thrives on the honor system. Molyneux, in a massive version of the office snack box, asks listeners to voluntarily donate what value they find in the podcasts. He suggests 50 cents per podcast. Molyneux believes Freedomain Radio’s honor system has been a positive factor for his business model, which he didn’t entirely predict. The fact that his income could dry up at any minute means that he feels a constant pull to keep producing relevant and interesting podcasts. If he doesn’t produce quality, people don’t pay. In my discussion with him he told me, “I get instant feedback. I know right away if it was good or not based on how many donations come in for that material.”

Molyneux says he keeps the donation model so listeners have a sense of ownership of the podcasts. Listeners engage and feel that they are a real part of the conversation, since they contribute to its financial success. His sites include no advertising, and people don’t even get to write off their donations, because he is not a charity.

Molyneux proves that where there is trust, money will follow. “Trust is everything,” Molyneux told me. “If I didn’t have trust there would be no downloads, no show, and no business.” According to him, the most important factor in trust is humility. Being humble has made him one of the most trusted philosophers of our time, because he is open to differing opinions and willing to bow to the good points and logic of others.

Another important aspect of trust is being congruent. Molyneux mentioned this: “Your business model needs to be aligned with your content and your approach.” Since his philosophy is that “people are basically good” and that “voluntary virtue is the best ideology,” his donation model is consistent with his philosophy and business.

Stefan Molyneux has defined trust as the best conceivable principle to have in the modern marketplace, and it has resulted in success for his business.


As trust in the market tanks, so does the value of the business.

Bill Otis, former chief of the Appellate Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, offered this analysis: “Our ability to bail our way out of this recession is extremely limited, because, even if they worked and could be paid for, bailouts and government spending generally fail to address the fundamental problem at the heart of our difficulties. The fundamental problem is not liquidity or even solvency. It is trust–or more correctly, the lack of trust–that has spawned the breakdown in the credit markets. The lack of trust cannot be remedied with money. It can only be remedied with that which creates trust.”

Though our trust has been shaken in America during this economic crisis, we still enjoy a level of trust that is not found in all parts of the world. A business professor and friend of mine, Leo Gabriel, was asked by a native of a small, war-torn, developing country, “Why does capitalism work in America and not here?” Gabriel said, “Because, generally, we can assume trust in our economic system.” In America we can go online, order a product, and assume it will be shipped. The retailer can generally assume that he will be paid. Without trust there cannot be economic activity. You must be able to trust that your cash, check, or credit will have value and will be good. A retailer must know that the product or service will be delivered from the supplier as expected. With greater trust comes greater economic activity and a better form of capitalism.

One benefit of sincerely building trust is the priceless feeling that comes when one does what he knows in his heart is the right thing to do. Other intangibles of genuine trust include decreased stress, increased peace, fulfillment, solid friendships, and a lasting legacy.

Trust us–you’ll find more useful leadership advice in our Fast Company newsletter.

From THE TRUST EDGE by David Horsager. Copyright 2012 by David Horsager. Excerpted with permission by Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


[Image: Flickr user Geraint Rowland]