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Trusted or Busted?
Trusted or Busted?

As the managing partner of a professional services organization, I understand the importance of earning a client's trust and maintaining that trust throughout the relationship, hopefully over a period of many years. No matter what business you're in, I'm sure most of you know from your own experiences that trust is the basis for success, and that gaining and keeping someone's trust is a whole lot easier than re-gaining it, should a client or customer ever have reason to doubt your ability to provide the quality of service they rightfully expect.

I was reminded of this simple truism recently. One of Marcum's people, a newcomer to the Firm who joined us as part of one of our recent mergers, adopted a dog - a Scotty - from a rescue last year. The dog was a pedigree used for breeding at a puppy mill. Once she no longer was able to produce profitable litters, the puppy mill gave the breed rescue 48 hours to go get the dog before it was destroyed.

Let me state for the record that I am a Board member of the Nassau County SPCA on Long Island, so this story strikes a real chord with me.

Charm, the Scotty, had spent five years in a cage and was let out only to birth the next litter. She did not know how to use steps, had never worn a collar or walked on a leash, and needed major therapy just to learn how to be a regular dog.

Shelly (our team member) found a compassionate veterinarian who was able to help bring this poor pooch back to some type of normal. The vet had to perform a few surgeries due to an absence of dental hygiene and also found that Charm had thyroid disease, which fortunately could be maintained with proper medication.

Shelly also found a groomer who had experience with emotionally damaged canines. The groomer demonstrated knowledge and compassion, which created trust between them.

After the first year, Shelly had a gut feeling that something with the groomer was off. When she requested certain services, the groomer would not make eye contact, spoke quickly and no longer took the time to discuss ongoing care of the dog. Uh oh.

During a regular office visit with the vet, Shelly learned that Charm's nails were not being maintained and now could not be properly trimmed. The vet also pointed out to Shelly other deficiencies that were not immediately visible to the untrained eye, services that had not been performed by the groomer for months, although Shelly had paid for them.

Additional damage to the already damaged dog was done. Also damaged was the initial trust between the groomer and Shelly, and now she and Charm have a long road ahead of them. Was the groomer purposefully deceitful? Or did he become complacent in servicing the dog? Did he believe Shelly would never question the services, ask for a second opinion or find a replacement?

People hire professionals because they need specific expertise that they themselves do not have. Failing to live up to your responsibilities as an engaged expert is one of the most egregious surrenders of trust that I can think of. And it is surely a prescription for business disaster.

Whether you are a dog groomer or an accountant, recognizing the paramount importance of building and maintaining trust with your clients and operating at the highest standards of professional excellence should be the baseline. This is the core of Marcum's brand promise to our clients. But as far as Charm and Shelly are concerned, don't worry. The vet is confident that this lucky dog is (finally!) on the road to recovery and will be good as new in less than a year.

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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Jeffrey M. Weiner and do not represent those of Marcum LLP, its partners or its employees.

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