I had an interesting situation pop up about six months ago. An entrepreneur reached out to me who had started a business that was fairly similar to 3Pillar’s. I remember doing this myself early on at 3Pillar, where I would reach out to those who I respected and those I thought I could learn something from and those whose “table scraps” I thought I might be able to eat.
I liked this gentleman quite a bit. I thought he had the passion, the vision, and a lot of the components — like the ability to follow through, boldness, and also the humility — to be successful.
About a month-and-a-half into our relationship, as I began to introduce him to others in our organization, thinking that there may be an opportunity for partnership between the two organizations, I learned that previously, before he had reached out to me, he had been navigating our organization. Through that process, he spoke to one of our sales reps.
In that conversation, he very deliberately asked the sales executive whether or not he would make introductions to prospects which he felt were not a fit for 3Pillar.
On the surface, that’s an absolutely wonderful thing to do and is in no way an issue.
However, interestingly enough, this individual specifically made the comment that the sales exec didn’t need to let the company know.
Anytime you’re dealing with a person who feels as though it’s best to work in the dark rather than in the light, someone who prefers to keep things hidden rather than expose them, you have to ask yourself why.
I have found over and over — not only in my career, but throughout my life — that transparency and openness together are a powerful tool, a tool that’s used to build trust in relationships. Openness and collaboration are important aspects to living with character.
Don’t get me wrong: full transparency is not a requirement for honesty. But purposefully hiding something, purposefully calling out and suggesting that something remain hidden, is a troubling warning sign.
This individual, through that one action, gave me pause. The pause that I received caused me to pull back from that relationship in a way that probably cost him significant business. I had already had multiple relationships lined up that I felt would be mutually beneficial for us to hand off to this individual — they weren’t perfectly aligned for us yet would have been great work for him as a smaller business.
That work was jeopardized because of the warning sign that I saw.
If this individual had been up-front in the first place, I believe we’d still be working together today. I believe they do great work, and I believe that all in all, he’s a good man.
Our actions speak louder than our words, and trust is something that takes a long time to build up and just a second to tear down. A mistake he made just months before our interactions unfortunately cost us an opportunity to partner.