A Recipe for Trust

Feb 13, 2020

By Seth Cohen

Trust. It’s the foundation upon which all relationships are based and it’s what I strive to earn with our clients every day. It takes years of hard work, persistence, and consistency to earn the trust of clients, and no time at all to lose it!

There are five essential ingredients needed to gain and maintain trust:

  1. Listen.
  2. Be responsive
  3. Never compromise
  4. Be consistent
  5. Be transparent

In retrospect, these ingredients seem reasonable. almost obvious, and probably easy to achieve. On the surface they are. However, each ingredient takes an enormous amount of effort and time to successfully fine-tune.

Many experts, present company included, fall into the trap of believing our own hype. It’s often quicker and easier to substitute what we think our client needs for what they really want. This is selective hearing, and certainly doesn’t engender trust. Instead, I table my assumptions and take the time to actively listen and ask questions so that together we can identify exactly who and what the client needs to successfully achieve their goals.

While our network boasts some of the top c-suite talent, there are times when I have to be fully transparent and tell a client that we don’t have an executive expert with the requisite skill-set to meet their needs. Although that particular opportunity may be lost, the client rarely is. Quite the opposite. More often than not, because I am not willing to compromise or waste time, theirs or mine, by introducing experts who aren’t exactly right for a position, I earn their trust and gain a loyal client.

Even though I, and every one of our clients must sleep at some point, running a global business means that a client is always awake somewhere and potentially in need of our services. Clients generally expect us to respond with a sense of urgency commensurate with their time line, not ours. Whether it means coming home from dinner and logging on for a few hours, or organizing coverage with another time zone, the onus is always on us to be available when needed.

To ensure the quality of the network, we work solely on the basis of referrals. I insist that referrers vouch for the professionalism and ethics of the executives they have recommended. While the strict adherence to this practice may slow the growth of the network, and sometimes results in lost placements, in the long run, it is one of the key drivers of our growth.

Clients have come to expect a high level of personalized service, standards, and ‘most favored nation status’ when working with Eleven Canterbury. They know that they can depend on this consistent level of performance. As a result, we have become a trusted staffing ‘utility’ to which they return whenever the need for a high-level c-suite executive expert arises. There is always room for improvement and I continually evaluate our performance to make sure we remain consistent and are living up to those standards.

There are no shortcuts or substitutes. This deceptively simple recipe – always taking the time to get to know clients and understand their needs; and earning their trust by being uncompromisingly responsive, consistent, and transparent – allows us to reap the benefits and enjoy long-lasting and mutually successful relationships.

Seth Cohen is the Managing Partner of Eleven Canterbury. He was a member of the Group Managing Board and Head of Group Offshoring at UBS AG.

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