Trump, Trudeau and Truth
Following current events these days in both the U.S. and Canada, it’s hard not to think about the nature of truth. It seems that every day there’s a new allegation leveled against Donald Trump that is met with denial and claims of fake news. And here in Canada, our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been grappling with a scandal that is focused on competing versions of reality. In all of these cases politicians and bureaucrats walk a very fine line between truth and lies.
That’s why I would make a terrible politician. For me, there is no fine line. You either tell the truth or you don’t. And that’s the way we do business at Algood.
The first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency have been turbulent to say the least. They are all sorts of accusations and allegations – from collusion with the Russia to paying off porn stars. On top of that, reactions are completely the opposite of each other. For some, the President is a scoundrel, skirting or even breaking the law while tarnishing the reputation of his office and the country. For others he is a hero, standing up for the common man, victimized by the media, combatting the political establishment and protecting the nation. In all of this, truth is elusive. It’s almost impossible to determine who is right and who is wrong.
In Canada, there has been a scandal involving possible political meddling in a legal process to determine whether to criminally charge a large and influential corporation. The controversy has reached into heart of the Prime Minister’s Office resulting in the resignations of Justin Trudeau’s most trusted advisor and the country’s highest ranking civil servant. With all kinds of drama liked secretly recorded phone conversations and lots of he said, she said, this uproar has tested the real meaning of truth. Just like in the U.S. opinions about who is right and who is wrong are determined by political allegiances.
The common thread in both countries is that there’s nothing black and white about the truth. Rather it comes in varying shades of grey.
That’s the total opposite of the way I lead my life and run a company and it’s not the way we do business at Algood. For me – and us – the distinction between truth and lie is crystal clear.
It would be easy to get an order by promising a delivery date that is impossible or unlikely and then just stringing a customer along. I remember one, now defunct, caster company that armed its salespeople with a list of twenty excuses for not delivering on time. Each time an excuse was used with a particular customer, it was ticked off to ensure someone didn’t say, “That’s what you told me last time.” It’s brilliant in a pathetic kind of way.
Likewise, we could take an order for a caster that we’re not sure will be ready on time and then substitute something similar when its time to deliver, hoping the customer won’t complain. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard about companies opening a carton only to discover something other than what was ordered.
We could also provide price estimates that we know will get us an order but we’ll never be able to honor and then tell the customer about some unforeseen cost increase that made it impossible to deliver on budget. That’s a good one.
Inflating performance or testing results is an even better way to get an order. Tell the customer that capacity is 20% higher than it really is or better yet, don’t bother testing and just tell customers what they want to hear.
For me, all of the above are totally intolerable. You tell a customer the truth, not what he or she wants to hear. We provide realistic delivery dates, accurate pricing and the exact product that was ordered. And we test like crazy, making damn sure that our products meet our specs.
This truthful approach really gets tested when a problem arises. This week, we had an order delayed because the production process on a custom designed caster didn’t work as expected. We could have planned on telling our customer that everything was ok and then blaming some delivery glitch for the late delivery. But what happens when the production delay is longer than expected? Now, you’re caught in a web of lies and you lose the trust of the customer.
If we have to decide on how forthcoming to be with a customer, I will always err on the side of being too honest. My honesty barometer is the golden rule. I am as truthful with customers as I expect to be treated by our suppliers –and I hate being lied to.
For Trump and Trudeau it may be hard to pin down the truth but for me, and for Algood, it’s actually quite easy. There’s no wiggle room. It’s either true or it’s not. More than that, our obsession about honesty allows me, our employees, and our customers to sleep well at night.