(The following is adapted from my first book, The Business Playbook.)
Aside from my mother, who taught me most of what I know about business, my most influential mentor was Alzie Jackson, the head chef at Camp Sussex in New Jersey, where I spent many summers - first as a camper, and then as an employee, in Alzie's kitchen.
Alzie might have taught me the most important lesson there is to learn in business: How to build trust. If you don't have people's trust, they'll never want to work for you, or buy from you.
After a few years of working my way up the kitchen ladder, I was Alzie's right-hand man one summer. I was responsible for making all the soups, and making sure dinner was served on time.
One day I was making cream of tomato soup, a soup I myself can't stand. The tomatoes were all cooked down, and I was heating the milk. Those of you unfamiliar with making cream soups might not know that you have to keep stirring the milk as you heat it; otherwise, it boils, and scalds. If you pour scalded milk into tomato soup, you get white spots floating around in the soup, and no one will touch it.
It had been a very hot, tough day, and long story short, I scalded the milk, and I went ahead and poured it into the soup anyway.
Sure enough, white spots showed up all over the soup. I did everything I could to remove them, but nothing really worked. So I went to Alzie and said: "We're not serving soup today."
"You must be crazy," Alzie said. He proceeded to make perfect tomato soup from scratch in 45 minutes; I'll never understand how he pulled off that miracle.
After we served the soup that night, Alzie pulled me aside.
"Brandon," he said. "the first time you don't deliver what's on the menu is when people lose faith in you. That's when you lose their trust."
I'll never forget Alzie, and I'll never forget that lesson.
In business, and in life, you have to do what you say. That is the first and most important ingredient to building trust.
And without people's trust, you can't get anywhere in this world.
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Even if it hurts you do it right and you keep your reputation. If they lose faith in you, you will lose faith in yourself.