Doing Business on Trust Currency: The Reality of a New Normal


Trust is the currency with which we prove to others that we are harmless. We do it in business, leadership, social circles, and the home front. We want the other person to trust us; isn’t it? But the trust currency is a complex one, and you cannot give it except you earn it. In other words, someone cannot trust you for a long time unless you are trustworthy. Trust is important for building relationships, but, for some reason, many small business owners pay lip service to it.

During the global lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was privileged to attend several virtual business networking meetings to boost my trust currency. I connected with some ambitious small business owners in Malaysia, India, Poland, South Africa, Uganda, Italy, and Morocco seeking ways to expand, synergize, globalize, and grow bigger and better.

Every meeting was an opportunity to learn about the unique products or services that these amazing individuals offer, and understand areas they need help with also. Meeting after meeting with different individuals in different countries, and at different times, a strong and consistent pattern emerges. Everyone wants to expand and grow, but, on one condition – TRUST. Regardless of industry, sector, product, or service on offer, everyone I met wants someone he or she can trust.

In a meeting with some amazing entrepreneurs from different parts of the world.

So, why does trust matter?

Trust is the new normal currency that global entrepreneurs seek to accelerate growth. Simply put; trust is a two-sided relationship: I trust you, and you trust me in return. Sounds simple, right? Yeah, but not as easy. Trusting is risky, and not every SME owner wants to take the risk. But, as an entrepreneur, you must be willingly intentional to take the risk to trust and be trusted. Taking the risk to trust first is necessary to increase the value of your trust currency. Like falling in love, trust can be earned quickly for some people, and take long for others. But, regardless of how quickly it takes to build or earn, trust can be lost easily, and when the loss occurs, it imprints a mark on the stone. 

Let me explain…

In one of my one-to-one meetings with Papindder, an Indian entrepreneur with more than 20 years experience in the export and import space, he said:

“Nkem, as entrepreneurs, we must be very careful about how we collaborate with others. We can execute ten successful business transactions and be happy with each other. But the day any one of us allows a single transaction to go bad, we lose trust, and that single bad transaction automatically erases all previous good transactions.”

Components of the trust Currency

In an attempt to develop trust, many SME owners focus on the wrong actions. You don’t build trust by offering the best products or services. Writing great articles, making great presentations, offering great marketing programs, and branding yourself on social media platforms are great; but they neither earn you trust nor improve your trust currency. People will not do business with you because of your number of appearances on social media. Although social media helps to get the word out for you, they do not make you trustworthy. Your great articles are social proof of your credibility, alright; but, they don’t increase your trust currency. Trust requires one-to-one visibility and regular personal exchange of communication with others. As Papindder explained, trust can take some time to build; but it takes much longer to nurture and sustain, and personal communication is a great tool for nurturing trust.

Mark Twain’s axiom that “people buy from the people they know, like, and trust,” cannot be any less true. Your clients may know and like your products or services, but, they cannot do any serious business with you until you earn their trust. My point is to focus your time and energy on long-term trust-building relationships to achieve sustainable growth.

Trust can be inferred from what you say and how you say it. For example; the other person can evaluate the quality of what you say from how you say it. They can describe what you do from what you say, assess whether they can feel comfortable to share vital information with you and whether you would be willing to put their interests above yours. These four scenarios form the pillars of trust:


Being credible is more than having good credentials. Instead, credibility is about the quality of words you say and how you say them. Suffice it to say that you are credible on the basis of what you know and how you communicate what you know. Credibility is also about your presence and level of honesty. It is possible for someone to say about you; “I can trust what s/he says about business strategy; s/he is credible on the subject.”

Here are some of the ways to increase your credibility factor…

a) Develop deep knowledge in your field of interest or industry and stay current with the industry’s news and trends.

(b) Be passionate in your subject matter area and communicate it with self-assurance; for example, give a firm handshake and direct eye contact (where it is culturally appropriate).

c) Be vulnerable; say “I don’t know,” when “I don’t know” is the honest answer; it proves your humanity.


Reliability deals with actions; the things you do. To be reliable means your actions and behaviour are consistent and predictable. In other words, You can be adjudged reliable if your words (what you say) are consistent with your actions (what you do). For example; someone can say about you; “She does what she says and I trust her.” Reliability is that part of the Trust Currency that gives other people the assurance that your actions won’t surprise them.

Here are some ways you can improve your reliability factor…

a) Set clear expectations upfront and report on them regularly.

b) Be punctual and present.

c) Respect the other person(s); use their languages, templates, and dress codes where possible.

d) If you’re falling behind on your words, communicate it, and hold yourself accountable for it.


Intimacy might sound unprofessional by virtue of what you’re already thinking about it right now. But, in this context, intimacy is an important trust-building component. Intimacy is that part of the Trust Currency that creates the feeling of safety for others to trust and do business with you. As a matter of fact; intimacy is associated with risk and someone must take the first step to trust the other person. That’s risky of course. It is risky because you are trusting someone you have no clue about whether he or she is trustworthy. Many small business owners do not understand that, yet they want the sale faster. Entrepreneurs must be willingly intentional to trust first and be trusted in return; it is in that process that trust occurs.

Let me explain…

While searching for support to optimize profitability and growth, one of my business coaching clients found me on the internet. He wasn’t sure if he could trust me, but after reading my bio, he took the risk to contact me via email. After sending several emails, we exchanged telephone numbers and got talking. As we continued talking, his feelings of safety increased, as a result, he made the decision to work with me. Trust allays fears, and intimacy is the pillar that creates that sense of safety in relationships.

Here are some ways to improve your intimacy factor…

a) Listen actively and capture the other person’s tone of voice, emotions, and mood; then, acknowledge them out loud.

b) If you like/appreciate something about the other person, tell him or her; don’t keep it to yourself.

c) Share something interesting and personal about you; it makes you human and interesting.

d) Call the other person by his/her name.


The last component of the Trust Currency is self-orientation. Self-orientation deals with the object of your focus. In your relationship, do you focus on yourself or the other person? That is what your self-orientation defines; it is high if you focus on yourself, and low if your focus is on others.

Let me explain further…

In an attempt to make a sale, some people manipulate, misinform, and mislead others. They focus on themselves, hoard useful information and resources, and attempt to rush others into their solutions. Sometimes, they talk too much to compete for attention and recognition. But, ideally, your self-orientation needs to be low on you and high on the other person. For example; if, concerning you, someone says; “He cares about me and how the outcome of the transaction affects my work,” then, you have low self-orientation. But, if they say; “He’s only concerned about making the sale and taking the gains;” or “she’s only interested in her reputation;” then, your self-orientation is high.

Here are some ways to improve your self-orientation factor…    

a) Share your time, resources, and ideas with others.

b) Ask questions and listen actively to understand the other person’s wants.

c) Negotiate for a genuine win-win.

d) Give credit to the other person.


Genuine trust is the currency of future business. It is embedded in personal relationships and the ability to share deep intimacy. As businesses go global, entrepreneurs must be willing to develop and nurture trust relationships to succeed.

Author: Nkem Mpamah
Nkem Mpamah is Nigeria's #1 business coach, leadership, and strategy consultant for the services industry. Nkem coaches successful entrepreneurs to improve performance, increase competitiveness, and expand their entrepreneurial freedoms. He is the founder of Cognition Global Concepts, and creator of the Growth Syndicate Program." Nkem is author of "The ART of Achievement and Fulfillment", and "The Entrepreneur".

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