THE BLOG

The New Power Girls: Trust and Your Startup

05/27/2011 04:54 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

It's a popular term to say that you need to earn your customer's trust these days, especially with the advent of social media tools.

But what about the people you let into your business that aren't your customers? What about your friends, family, employees, your clients, strategic partners, vendors? They can be equally impactful -- or detrimental -- to the outcome you see. The wrong type of publicity firm can cost you thousands without results. An employee who is slick at marketing his/herself may end up being anything but what they seem. Even family and particularly friends can have a negative influence -- not solely in hiring them to help you out, but in their ancillary relationship to you and your life.

After all, work and life are so intimately intertwined, and that's especially when you're an entrepreneur as so much of work life spills over to the other side (and vice versa).

I've seen it in my own life a handful of times, among the female founders I've met and known and with companies I've worked with. I've read about it happening in the media. Not long ago I read an article about a woman who gave everything up because her success and work were affecting her relationship with her husband. I've seen companies who have brought on clients that have hurt relationships for them, particularly in the areas of PR and other services. A few friends unknowingly sharing details about your plans or secret sauce can disrupt just that.

If those we work with and those we do not can impact even the tiniest effects on us and our business, how can you foolproof who you can trust and who you can't?

There are a few easy ways. It's something I've shared with many of the women (and men!) I know who also own start-ups and struggle with similar things. Mind you it's not always 100% foolproof - people, and situations, can change. But if you put a little thought in advance to who you have in your work or personal life, it can save you from potential hassle in the future. Not everybody in your life is meant to be close to you and your work -- and not every vendor, client, employee, etc. is always meant to have that same access either.

In your personal life, see your world as something that exists in rings. The outer rings are where you'll likely find most of the people you know. Only let those who you deeply trust and have known for at least three years near your closer rings. When it comes to employees, adopt this same type of mentality, only allowing closer access as you've gotten to know someone you've hired. I've seen companies hand over the shop too early only to find themselves in trouble later. And never solely go by someone's resume -- blingy titles and large company names can make it easier for someone who lacks the experience you need to appear as if they have it. Always ask for and check references, making sure one or two are work-related.

When it comes to working with vendors, be diligent about details -- ask questions, listen closely, pay attention and again ask for references. This is a given, but you'd be surprised at how many people do not do this.

Most of all, trust your gut and never take a step without meditating, thinking about it or praying. Bounce who and what you work with off those in your closest inner circle -- those who have your back will be able to see clearly when your own opinion or thought might be clouded.

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