Need Competitive Advantage? Try Trust

How important is trust to any new or established venture? What are the benefits of promoting trust at the workplace? Two organizations tried out unique and risqué ideas to get ahead in the game.

A joke doing the rounds on Twitter a while ago had an illustration of a pen tied with a piece of string to the table, at a bank – a common sight at Nepali banks too. Below, it said – If I’m trusting you with my money, you should trust me with your pens!

Trust is the foundation of any combined effort — an underdog factor that allows society to function properly. In business, association with employees, suppliers and buyers would be hard to carry out without building a level of trust first. The credit system is based on it; ironically, even legal contracts symbolise trust rather than the lack of it. Trust encourages risk-taking, which brings about investment and progress. Recognizing it’s inherent nature and importance to our system, more businesses are now adopting innovative ideas to promote trust, resulting in enhanced employee performance, customer relationships and finding that much-sought-after competitive advantage.

 

All the employees at photo.circle, a Kathmandu-based photography-related organization, are photography enthusiasts. Every month, their office offers them a paid week-long leave. Why? To allow them to work on their personal projects. Co-Founder and Operations Director at photo.circle, Bhushan Shilpakar says, “Office work does not necessarily relate to taking pictures, which might become frustrating at times. The leave allows the team members to be involved in photography outside of photo.circle. This helps them stay energized, which is essential for jobs related to creativity.” During the ‘leave’, the employees can make use of office resources to help them utilize their time well. photo.circle may not be a profit-oriented organisation, but their approach on building trust and relationship within their team members is definitely applicable in business environments to a certain extent. What does this achieve? It helps companies retain quality employees, attract talented manpower, and also achieve better correlation between efforts targeted toward the goals of the business. It also increases ownership over the company for the employees.

Another great example of building trust, this time between a company and its clients comes from the unique Karma Café inJhamsikhel, Karma is doing what most others would not even entertain as an idea. The café has no fixed prices for the eat-in coffees. The customers can leave whatever they feel is appropriate in the “Karma Chicken” container. Birgit Gyawali, proprietor of the café says, “Despite not having a price list, we are still able to cover our operating costs with our eat-in coffees. The coffee beans, coffee making equipments and other items we sell generates an income too.” The ‘price-less’ coffees are not the only way the place stands out. Besides locally sourced coffee beans, Gyawali also sells coffee makers designed by herself that are made locally (the grinders are imported from Japan). The place also offers accessories made out of used coffee, coffee paper and bags, turning their waste into value. Furthermore, what sets the business apart is its outlook on the industry. Gyawali plans to provide information about the local producers and make the entire process transparent to her customers to build ownership, thereby strengthening relationships with both customers and suppliers. When asked about the competitive nature of the coffee industry, Gyawali replies, “I would rather work with my competition to benefit the local producers even more. Competition is a driver of progress, plus there is enough for everyone.

Despite trust being a vital ingredient to businesses, trust is often neglected or taken for granted. Our business management practices that revolve around the principle of profit maximization, and our tendency to pursue myopic solution, often keep us from recognizing a vital ingredient.

In the competitive environment we function in, adding this vital but neglected ingredient to our business practices may provide the competitive advantage that we all are looking for.

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