“Business is simple. Make some stuff and sell it for more than it cost you. There’s nothing more to it than that except for a few million details.”—president of International Harvester

I had to eat a little humble pie recently. And I want to share why, because I think it illustrates a critical lesson in how easy it can be for clients—or potential clients—to lose confidence in you.

We had asked our readers to complete a short survey to obtain some feedback on the buying process for our new book, 101 Best Ways to Get Ahead from 101 of the World’s Most Successful People.

To reward our respondents for their time, I offered them a free copy of a report that sells for $3.95. We had a great response and a number of people said they really appreciated being given something for their feedback.

But one man pointed something out to me that caused me to wince. When we updated this report a while back, we increased the price from $2.95 to $3.95. I stated in my offer what it sold for by saying, “ . . . if you used only a third of the advice in it, it would be worth a hundred times the $3.95.” I believe that statement to be true or I wouldn’t have said it.

But as it turns out—and as this gentleman politely pointed out—we’d neglected to change the price on the product itself. All references to 101 Best Ways to Save Time were for $3.95, but the cover price on the report itself still said $2.95. When this respondent saw this, he told me our credibility had been diminished.

And he was right.

It doesn’t matter that it was unintentional. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t even pay $3.95. What matters is the perception people have.

It takes a long time to build credibility—and so little to degrade or destroy it. It takes only one tiny inconsistency or inaccuracy for people to question everything else you say and do.

We’ve been in business for almost ten years. We’ve worked hard to provide services and sell products that deliver what we promise—usually more. We fully and unconditionally guarantee everything we sell. We bend over backward to please our customers, clients and members.

People trust us. We’ve built a solid reputation, and we’re very well respected.

But one can never rest on one’s laurels. We have to be diligent and always remember how easily it can be lost—how one transgression will overshadow dozens of good experiences.

I feel fortunate to do business with people I trust and who trust me. What I have to remind myself is that not everyone operates this way and many of you have been burned by less-than-scrupulous transactions.

My learning was a reminder of how fragile trust is. My learning was that I can never take it for granted, and I must be extraordinarily attentive to every detail and how it will be perceived.

Examine carefully your policies, your practices, your communications—everything you do, and don’t do, for inaccuracies, exaggerations and misleading statements.

Guard your reputation and your credibility like it was the most important thing you have. Because it may very well be.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Angier is founder and CIO (Chief Inspiration Officer) of SuccessNet--a support network helping people and businesses grow and prosper since 1995. Get their free Resource Book ($27 value) of products, services and tools for running your business more effectively. And most of the over 150 resources are FREE to access and use.