4 Key Strengths of Successful Businesses

Thomas D. Arthur Distinguished Professor of Leadership, East Carolina University College of Business
3 min read
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A recent survey found that less than half of employees trust the senior management at their jobs. Yet our research shows that leaders and entrepreneurs who build trust within their corporate organizations have greater employee commitment, lower levels of unwanted turnover, and higher rates of innovation.  

For those businesses and business leaders doing it right, research points to four key ways in which they work to build trust within their organizations and with whom they do business: reliability, openness/honesty, competence and compassion -- or what we call the ROCC of Trust. For the entrepreneurs we've studied for decades, the ROCC of Trust has been critical to their success. Here's how. 

Related: Why Trust Is the Most Important Part of 'Know, Like and Trust'

1. Reliability

Reliability is doing what you said you'd do when you said you were going to do it. It helped Dennis Quaintance and Mike Weaver build the first Platinum LEED-certified hotel in the U.S., along with other award-winning restaurants and the famous O'Henry hotel.  

Reliability transcends national boundaries. As Jackie Tso, cofounder of social e-commerce enterprise LinkMeGlobal, says, “By understanding that there are cultural differences between the U.S. and the developing countries, trust across our extended team of artisans needed to be developed over time by delivering on our commitments.”

2. Competence

Competence, or consistently delivering superior results, is how radical intrapreneur and GM plant manager Bob Lintz transformed a failing $250 million stamping plant in Cleveland, Ohio, into a billion-dollar organization that's consistently been one of the world's best companies for more than a decade. 

Competence is key for Maximilian Huc, co-founder of the job search platform GoJobio.com: “I try to find individuals who embody the same drive as me to not just turn a profit, but to first and foremost make a difference in the process.”

Related: Multiply the Trust Factor Inside Your Organization

3. Openness

Being transparent in communications is how Janice Dru of business technologies, services and solutions provider Inkwhy does business. She writes that she builds trust within her team by “having open conversations and candid discussions." 

GoJobio’s Huc says, “I take it upon myself to keep everyone abreast to what everyone else is doing, by creating a very transparent environment, the truth is right before everyone’s eyes.”

4. Compassion

Looking out for the best interests of others is how Two Men and a Truck, International operates. The company's Grandma Rule, or treating everyone as you would want your grandma to be treated, helped turn a $350 investment in a used truck into a $400 million-plus-a-year enterprise, the largest local moving company in the U.S. Great teamwork and the innovation it fosters is at the core of Austin Holliman, cofounder of student engagement and education hub Commit Youth. "Our team is built on an enduring friendship and concern for each other’s personal welfare first and foremost.” 

Successful entrepreneurs incorporate the ROCC of Trust from the very beginning as they build their founding teams, recruit additional talent and evaluate strategic partners. Trust provides the foundation for navigating complex environments, collaboration that is critical to innovation and lasting success.

Related: Becoming a Great Leader Starts With Building Trust

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