Trust in business is completely critical. In his book, Lovemarks, Kevin Roberts writes about trust and respect being the two precursors to a Lovemark. I agree - for someone to love your business, they must first trust and respect it. It's interesting being in Bali, thinking about the cultural aspects of trust in business. In Australia the government basically trusts us to pay our tax. We may get audited, but its largely an honour system. And the vast majority of businesses do pay their taxes. On the other hand, retail stores don't trust the public (and often the staff) not to steal stuff. If you were leaving your shop for five minutes you'd lock the door.
Here it's the opposite.
Indonesia recently had its millionth registered tax payer. In a country of 230 million, that's not that great. Most people and businesses don't pay tax. Although most businesses do make a regular payment to the local police.
On the other hand, its completely normal to find a shop unattended. Even though there is a lot of poverty there is very little crime.
I rented a car for a day - I spoke to Wayan on the phone and he said he would be away but I could pick up the car from his wife. I asked if she wanted me to pay when I picked it up, and she said not to worry, to pay Wayan when I returned it. As I drove off I realised they knew nothing about me. I hadn't given them any details, passport number, credit card imprint - nothing. Can you imagine that happening in Australia? Rocking up to Avis at the airport, and the lady at the desk saying don't worry about the paper work, the boss is out, just sort us out when you get back. Although when I spoke to Wayan about it he said he doesn't like to rent his car to Javanese, because he has had a few friends in the business who have rented cars to Javanese only for them to disappear back to Java with their cars never to be seen again.
I've also somewhat inadvertently tested out the high level of trust worthiness myself. Last week I left my laptop sitting in a cafe - a laptop that's worth about the average salary for one year here. When I got back to the cafe (somewhat out of breath having sprinted the whole way back) my laptop was safe and sound. I've also left my keys in my motorbike on a somewhat embarrassing three separate occasions. Arguably I'm getting a bit too relaxed. Compare that to Australia where not only would I never leave my push bike unlocked, I actually take off the front wheel and lock that up too so that someone doesn't come along and steal the wheel.
However the internet world assumes that because I'm in Indonesia, I can't be trusted. We're are setting up a new website, so I bought some hosting in America, and a domain name from our usual provider in Australia. Or I tried to. The Australian website selling URLs let me get to the last page before saying that I couldn't continue due to a high probability of fraud. I got a bit further with the American site - I actually managed to buy the hosting, and get started on our website. Then 12 hours later our account was suspended and my credit card was refunded because the credit card is from Australia and the payment came from Indonesia. (I got both things sorted out, but it involved getting on the phone.)
I'm also struggling just to send emails - a lot of spam filters assume that because I'm in Indonesia, I must be spamming. So a lot of my emails either bounce back to me, or end up in people's junk mail. Which must make it hard for Indonesians trying to do business with the rest of the world. Imagine you set up your guest house, put up a website, but when ever you try to respond to an email, it doesn't make it through.
It seems pretty ironic that while I'm a place where I can safely park my motorbike on a main street and leave the keys in the ignition, the rest of the world assumes I'm committing fraud or sending spam every time I get online. Go figure.
And while I'm not advocating leaving your shop unattended, it is worth thinking about what we can do to create more trust in your business.