Building Blocks of Trust

My oldest son, a cabinet-maker, custom designed and built a cabinet for a customer, who is a contractor and also refers work to him. The customer gave guidance on the specifications. They agreed on a price and within a couple of weeks the item was built and delivered. Then came what often happens with construction.  The customer wasn’t happy. Discussions began.

Things Happen

In this case, drawers designed to open and close with specified slides were noisier than the customer wanted. He asked my son to install different (and more costly) slides to reduce the noise. My son thought the customer had specified this design and that the drawers were quiet already. So, he did not think any change was needed.

Has this ever happened to you? Think about fee disputes, for example.  Here are approaches some people take:

  • Ignore the issue, and let the relationship lag (“I don’t want to deal with it”)
  • Get angry and self-righteous (“It’s his fault, not mine”)
  • Give in, and make concessions (“I’ll just give him what he wants”)

Trust Principles in Action

My son agonized for more than a week over what to do. He did not want to spend the time or money replacing the slides because he thought he had done everything right.  Yet, he valued his relationship with the customer.

While he appeared to ignore the issue for a short time, he opted for a different approach, which looked a lot like applying the Trust Principles.

My son then suggested a way to compromise, sharing responsibility for the costs and time involved in fixing the problem.  After a brief discussion, they reached a resolution.

How many times do we choose to ignore, get angry or give in, rather than face the issue head on, using a principled approach? Which works better?

5 replies
  1. John
    John says:

    Glad to have found your blog Steward – great post! 
    I needed a few years of experience in business before I realized that establishing an honest relationship with your customers is a lot more valuable than just working for money and leaving when an issue like the one you described happens. This post is a great reminder that we shouldn’t be afraid to be transparent and honest with our clients – it will pay off.


  2. John
    John says:

    Great Post Stewart,

    I have seen many a relationship fail because they chose to ignore the problem or they got self righteous. It has been my experience that in a large majority of the time; if you are forthright as your son was, clients will work together  with you to resolve an issue.

    Thanks for the reminder,

    John Gies

  3. Chris Sidford
    Chris Sidford says:

    Promptly addressing challenges with respect and honesty while leaving your ego behind. Should be applied to every personal and business relationship. Congratulations to you and your son for such a mature solution.

    Chris Sidford

  4. Stewart Hirsch
    Stewart Hirsch says:

    Chris – thanks for your kind words and comment about timing- promptness is important.  He waited a week, but that was not too long.  Sitting on this for more time could have resulted in resentments and a new issue!

    John (and John) – both of you mention – thanks for the reminder.  It’s so true – we really do know this already.  Maybe because we know how we’d like to be treated. 
    Thanks much for your comments!


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