Why trust is so important in business
“We’re very chicken here,” attorney Joyce Mazero said as she introduced the panel at the Women’s Foodservice Forum breakfast during the International Franchise Association annual convention in New Orleans, February 23.
By “chicken,” Mazero, a partner with Perkins Coie, wasn’t referring to the panel’s lack of pluckiness in business, but rather that two of the three panel members were C-level executives in the quick-service chicken segment—Cheryl Bachelder, president and CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, and Cathy Tang, KFC’s chief legal officer. A third chicken concept was brought into the conversation when Bachelder repeated something Chick-fil-A’s founder Truett Cathy once told her: A leader’s job is to take people to a place they’ve never been. But what makes a leader’s job even harder is that often it’s a place the leader has never visited either.
There’s nothing cowardly about the way the three panel members—including Sarah Palisi Chapin, CEO of Hail Merry, a healthy snack food company—approach business. Their topic was building relationships to drive a company’s economic value by honoring the trust code.
“At Popeyes, we believe trust is the currency of a business relationship,” Bachelder said. She joined the company after it had gone through multiple leadership changes, and one of the first franchisees she met told her not to expect them to trust her anytime soon. She built trust, she said, by following through on promises. “Trust comes from reliability,” she added.
Other trust builders the panel mentioned were: transparency, showing occasional vulnerability and being mindful about the ways in which you communicate—from conversations to Facebook postings.
“We all have a personal brand and if you haven’t assigned one to yourself others will,” Tang said. "One way to build trust is to be true to whatever your personal brand is.”
And lost trust can be restored. “Remember,” Palisi Chapin said, “people can evolve.
“Franchising is a long-term relationship and you have to give permission to (both them and you to) evolve.”
Unlike the corporate world, where people can leave jobs and find a fresh start, in franchising, you have a 5- or 10-year contract between franchisor and franchisees and it’s difficult to have a do-over.
You have to do more than be tolerant, Palisi Chapin said, because tolerance doesn’t mean acceptance, it means keeping people at arm's length.
“Most of us are taught not to trust going into a business relationship,” Bachelder said. “I think we have a lot to unlearn.”
But there is an upside.
“Business is a sport,” Palisi Chapin reminded the audience. “Except in our sport it’s possible to have a win-win, not a win-loss.”