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Al Smith

published on May 17, 2017 - 3:38 PM
Written by Al Smith

The radio is on and another car commercial comes through the dashboard speaker. The description is tempting and the idea of buying a new car flashes through my mind. Then the disclaimer comes — spoken fast and almost decipherable — like overdosing on drugs or too many visits to Starbucks.

It always concerns me when lawyer talk is sped up to such a degree that you can’t understand the words, rendering suspicion about all the positives you have just heard for the first 50 seconds of the commercial.

Trust and truth has become a big factor today. We see it in government. We see it in business. Witness the disruption from Volkswagen and United Airlines. The same regarding Trump and the mainstream media.

As to government, one had to smile when recalling former President Harry Truman saying this about political rival Richard Nixon: “He is one of the few men in the history of this country to run for high office talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time — and lying out both sides.”

While amusing, the concept is not helpful.

Today, we witness media versus Trump, continually at odds about what is truthful and what is not. The new words in our vocabulary are “alternative facts,” first associated with Trump’s best-selling publication, “The Art of the Deal”. In the book Trump describes it as “truthful hyperbole…an innocent form of exaggerations and a very effective form of promotion.”

Apparently, we are at a place in time where some lies are acceptable and some are not. How do we differentiate between innocent hyperbole and destructive deception? (Excuse me while I flash back to Johnny Carson’s 1950s television game show, “Who Do You Trust?”)

If it is true, as one poll has revealed, that only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted, it illustrates just how fragile trust is. It reinforces the teachings that trust between customer and company is crucial.  

In business, we are admonished to tell the truth at all costs, even when it is not easy, or cheap, or popular, or convenient. Selling a product at the right price may cost you more in the short term, but dishonesty and deception and loss of trust can end up costing much more in the long run — professionally and personally.

In a recent Fortune magazine publication, Arthur Gensler, architect and founder of a leading global design firm, mentioned that when he started his company, he knew a lot about architecture but very little about running a business. In 2015, he wrote his book, “Art’s Principles” — insights he wishes someone had given him when he was first starting out.

Gensler states, “Trust in business enjoys two main benefits.”

The first is with your clients. If they know you are honest and direct with them, they usually are willing to work through challenges with you, and they won’t hesitate to be a referral source when things go well.

The second benefit is that authentic collaboration will take root within your firm. Your people can trust each other to act honorably and fulfill their roles according to shared company values.

Gensler states that earned trust of his clients and his employees remains the core foundation of his organization.

Super salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar captured the principle in less than 20 words: “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

Al Smith, former president and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, serves as a leadership coach for local companies as part of the John C. Maxwell leadership-training program. For more information, contact Smith at alsmith@alsmithpartners.com.

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