Your most valuable marketing asset is a five letter word

Let’s be honest, Tris. Trust is everything in the business,” He said. 

“Well, maybe not 100%, but 95%.” 

We were in a cab coming back from dinner, and we were discussing the trading operation and what was going on. 

It was one of those moments when you’re reminded that many aspects of life require trust.

In trading, your reputation and your position matter a lot. If other people in the investment business don’t trust you, those relationships are at risk. 

Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers failed when people no longer trusted them as viable businesses. 

But this wasn’t my introduction to the primacy of trust in relationships. By this point, I’d been in the trading business for a number of years, and I was well aware of this principle.

My first introduction to the power of trust was many years before.

And it took place at a sewage treatment plant of all places. 

Tapping a network

I was back in Calgary for the summer. During the rest of the year, I was at school in southern Ontario. 

And I had to get a job. So my grandmother sent me to see a guy called Bob, who ran the western division of a once-great construction company. 

Bob had worked with and for my grandfather over many years. And these relationships could be tapped for at least a meeting, and sometimes, depending on the situation, you might even get a job. 

Bob was a good guy. We talked a while, and he reminisced a bit, then told me to leave my number and he’d get back to me. 

I had no idea if anything would come out of the meeting. 

He called me a few days later and asked me to come back to the office. 

It doesn’t get much better than this

Back at the office, I was ushered in and was about to hear what Bob had in mind. 

“Do you have a driver’s license?” he asked.

“No,” I replied.  

Can you drive? 

I figured I was in trouble at that point. 

“No, not yet,” I said. 

Bob smiled. “Well, I’ve got some great news for you.”

“You’re going to learn how to drive.”

“You’ll have a truck to drive on the site.” 

“You’re going to work outside in the sunshine, and you’re going to get paid for it.”

“What do you think?” He asked with a smile.  

I was thrilled. 

Now that’s what you call a good day when you’re 16. 

Then I met Nevin

Bob told me I would be working on the sewage treatment plant they had just finished. Expanding the sewage treatment capacity would allow Calgary, a city of five hundred thousand people, to double.

My job was to clean up the extensive site before the landscapers got there. That meant every nail, rock, and piece of construction debris was to be collected and put in one place to be taken away. 

Bob told me to go to the trailer on the site at a certain time and wait for Nevin.

Nevin was working his way through the tunnels patching up any cracks or defects in the cement. And he would be there to help me if I needed anything. 

That was cool. 

So I went to the site, found the trailer, and waited for him. 

And he arrived right on time. 

Nevin was a 6’2″ Irishman from Dublin, probably late twenties. He was strong and fit—a watchmaker by trade. 

And he smoked cigarettes as if they were simply a part of his being. He smoked as naturally as you, and I breathe. It was like he came out of the womb, lit one up, and never stopped. I’ve never been a smoker, but this is a lasting memory of the man. 

He was also the guy that taught me how to drive. 

15 minutes and let loose with a truck

Do you remember your first driving lesson?

I remember eventually taking the written test years later. I got the first question wrong. And I could see the sense of pleasure from the woman marking it as she faced me from across the table. She appeared excited about the humiliation she was about to dole out.  

There wasn’t another mistake on the test.

But my actual first driving lesson was in an old pickup truck. The old four-by-four had probably shuffled through a couple of sites and was on its last legs. 

The color was like one of those cat tractors and a three-speed manual.

Nevin got in and showed me what to do. 

“Put it in neutral—clutch in. Turn the key. Then put it in gear.” 

I was shaking with excitement. 

“Then press the gas as you ease off the clutch.” 

I can still hear his Irish accent as he’s telling me this today. 

“Got it? Ok, let’s switch.”

I got in the driver’s seat, and he hopped in the passenger seat, propped his elbow up on the open window, and watched my performance. 

I pulled the emergency hand brake and followed his instructions. 

It stalled. I was too excited to be embarrassed by that. 

I went back through the process, and he said, give it some more “gas this time….

“That’s it! You’re all set.” 

After 15 minutes, I was let loose on the site in a pickup truck. 

Then Bob came to check on me

For the next month, I went around the site and collected every piece of junk. Twice a day, the truck was filled to the top of the cab. Then I would take all the debris to this spot and unload all the stuff in a pile where it could be taken away. 

Bob showed up one afternoon at the end of the first month. 

“How’s it going?” He asked. 

“Good,” I said. “I’m pretty much done here today, but I can show you what I’ve collected so far.” 

So we hopped in the truck, and I drove over to the mountain of debris I had been building. 

He got out and looked at it in disbelief. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but over the years, I came to understand that lots of construction execs would get their kids jobs on various sites. And some of them worked, but most were slackers. 

That wasn’t my style. And there was no way I was going to sully my grandfather’s name and reputation. I had a responsibility. 

“I’ve got a bunch more to go, but this is what I have so far,” I said. 

“Wow!” he laughed. “Good job. Keep going.”

Which is exactly what I did for the next month before heading back to school. 

He never came back to check. He knew I’d deliver. The next time I’d see him was at the office before I departed for school. 

For the rest of the summer, Nevin worked the tunnels, and I finished cleaning up the site. And I got lots of driving practice in. 

Trust is a powerful transferable attribute

Over the summers that followed, I worked on several other industrial construction projects. These included paper mills in Espanola and Thunder Bay, a tissue mill in New Brunswick, a Co-gen plant in Fort Frances, and a couple of summers on a nitrogen fertilizer plant in Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan. And one summer at HQ in Burlington. 

Those seven summers are tales for another day. 

Bob honored my late grandfather by giving me the work, and I earned his trust by showing up and exceeding his expectations. 

I did the same thing with the guys I worked for on each one of the projects that followed. Eventually, they asked for me when the school year was over. 

I’ve used the same approach on six different trading desks for nearly two decades. 

And today, I bring this approach when I work with busy marketing leaders like you. 

Trust has always been important in marketing. And it becomes paramount when conditions get tough. That’s why it’s the most important five-letter word in marketing today. 

Selling products and services in a recessionary environment requires an emphasis on relationships.

And that requires making trust a primary focus of your marketing campaigns so you can retain and build with your most valuable clients and customers. 


Things are tough out there, and I’m here to help shoulder a piece of the load for you. 

Give me a shout at, and let’s explore how we can work together on your marketing and copywriting goals.