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Get back to the roots of earning trust in your business

Hay-field preparation on Earl Ourada’s dryland ranch near Hidden Springs northwest of Boise. Farm life teaches virtue, Dale Dixon writes.
Hay-field preparation on Earl Ourada’s dryland ranch near Hidden Springs northwest of Boise. Farm life teaches virtue, Dale Dixon writes.

“So, where are you from?” is one of my favorite questions, because of the answer I get to give: “I’m a farm kid from Idaho.”

Feet hitting the ground at 4:30 a.m. and late-night runs to check irrigation instilled a set of values that I treasure to this day. A work ethic, honesty, providing value and resilience are just a few of the building blocks that created the foundation of Dale from a young life on the farm. The experience prepared me for my time at the Better Business Bureau.

Contrast the values of farm life to what we’re seeing in the business community today, and it causes me to pause, especially considering the latest Edelman Trust Barometer. The annual report on the level of trust in business, media, government and the nonprofit sector does not bode well. The executive summary is headlined, “An Implosion of Trust.”

I’ll focus on trust in business. For 2017, trust in business is down from previous years on a global scale. “Business is on the brink of distrust,” according to the report.

For those of us who own and/or manage a business, this should catch our attention. Basically, our customers and potential customers don’t trust us. And a majority or respondents to the Edelman survey are calling for anti-business regulation as a result. Disturbing.

The Edelman report highlights a number of items businesses can do now to build trust. To take a line from my farming days, it’s about getting back to the roots of good business.

Here are the top five actions Edelman suggests, along with a farming twist.

1. Treat employees well. I have great memories of picnics and BBQs on the farm where employees and families gathered. Call it basic human decency, but my dad, who owned the farm, taught me volumes about treating everyone with respect. His employees were a highly treasured part of the team.

2. Offer high-quality products and services. Dad walked (and still walks) the fields constantly, making sure there’s not a weed in sight and the crop is the best possible.

3. Listen to customers. People in agriculture get good at being tuned in to the needs and wants of customers.

4. Pay your fair share of taxes. I’ve spoken to enough business owners to know their consistent sentiment that they pay “more than my fair share.” So share your tax burden with your customers. They know, or can easily find out, the taxes that they pay on each gallon of gasoline. Make it easy for your customers to know how much tax you pay out for every dollar that comes in to your business.

5. Maintain ethical business practices. Make your core values known and live them with integrity. This is why I see such huge value in BBB. As a nonprofit, we believe in self-regulation for ethical standards of honesty, responsiveness, transparency, honoring promises and safeguarding privacy. Maintaining ethical practices is a bold, trust-earning statement to the world.

Dale Dixon is chief innovation officer of the Better Business Bureau Northwest. 342-4649, This column appears in the July 19-August 15, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on agriculture. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).