A client of mine (let’s call him Sam) drives an ancient green Toyota Corolla Seca.
It’s dinged up and the upholstery is so old that it’s started to disintegrate in places, exposing the padding. It has apparently never failed him but it does make alarming and random noises and the felt on the roof sometimes sags so low, passengers have trouble seeing where they are going.
This guy is not short on cash. He is one of the most successful programmers in his industry. He is responsible for some major technical innovations and his skills are so in demand he can pretty much write his own pay cheques.
And yet … he drives a clunker.
Not wanting to embarrass him, it took me several weeks to ask about it.
Turns out the car had once belonged to his father who financed Sam’s university education working as a driving instructor in the evenings and on weekends – after he’d finished long hours at his day job.
According to Sam, this car was the one in which almost every kid in his neighbourhood learned to drive. And although he was never officially given it, once Sam had his own license, his Dad would re-arrange his lessons so that it was available to Sam when he needed it; for dates, for lectures, for drives.
When Sam’s Dad died, it was left to Sam in his will. 17 years later and now a father himself, Sam is still driving it and has no plans to trade it in anytime soon.
That single story tells me more about that Sam’s character than 4000 LinkedIn endorsements will ever do. This is a man whose values align with mine and who understands hard work, sacrifice and the value of playing the long game.
Next time I’m in the market for a genius programmer – he’s right at the top of my list.
And that is the lesson for entrepreneurs who want to succeed online.
To work with you, I need to trust you.
Sitting in front of computers all over the world are real human beings. Just like 30 years ago when business was conducted mostly face-to-face everyone wants to work with those who share their values and who they can trust.
But unlike 30 years ago, I don’t have the reassurance that your Uncle and my Dad went to school together. In fact, for all I know you might not even look like your profile picture. You might be a weedy 21 year old in a darkened room trying to get my credit card number.
And the only way I can trust you is if I know your story.
Amidst all the clutter and hype online your story and reputation is your most powerful tool.
Who are you? What do you believe it? Why I should trust you?
John Hoctor of Watch Me Think uses video effectively to explain how he and his two co-founders came up with the idea for their research company, one which is completely rewriting the rules on market research. According to John, the idea was born in a beer garden four years ago.
Watch Me Think has proven to be remarkably successful but instead of disappearing behind corporate anonymity, John and the team have focused on telling the real story of their product as it evolves.
You can see him here, talking about the real reason they started the business and how it has grown exponentially.
Of course, you don’t have to be in technology to tell your story. In fact if you are a local business coming to my home, I need to trust you even more.
Matt Macfie, a carpenter in Mission Beach Queensland who has embraced the power of online reputation and trust by telling his story.
He didn’t finish his apprenticeship until he was in his thirties but far from trying to hide that, he considers it a strength and says it was one particular incident that made him realise that’s what he wanted to do.
Here’s how he tells it:
“I clearly recall the August afternoon more than a decade ago when I completed my first carpentry job. A mate of mine had been let down by a tradesman that he’d hired to complete a renovation for him. He had exactly 2 weeks to transform what looked like a demolition site into a home that he could rent – and he had to do it quickly as the bank was breathing down his neck. Luckily for him, another friend of ours was a skilled carpenter. He stepped up to help and I took time off from my job at the time to help out as well.
Over the next fortnight, we put in massive hours, sometimes working until late at night and slowly the project began to take shape. Between the three of us, we had managed to transform my mate’s nightmare into a really successful investment – one that still makes him money today. That project sparked a real passion for me and the moment that job was finished, I started looking around for an apprenticeship at the ripe old age of 29. Best decision I’ve ever made.”
This is a guy I’d be happy renovating my kitchen.
Now, telling your story isn’t always comfortable. But as soon as you enter the online arena a story is being told about you anyway.
When you take control, you get to tell the story your way.
Each post. Each video. Each genuine interaction forms bricks in a solid foundation of trust.
So tell me. What is your Toyota Corolla Seca? Was it one too many wines one night that gave you the courage to start your business?
I really want to trust you. You just have to show me how.