Mar 29, 2021
People often talk about spirals that descend downwards, but we often forget that spirals can go upwards too. In today’s episode, James Clarke and I talk about some of the ways to propel our credibility into an upward spiral.
James Clarke is the managing partner of Clarke Capital Partners. Early in his career, James founded and led a Utah-based online retailer named CLEARLINK with more than 2,000 employees. He’s earned some prestigious awards. For example, the Utah State Bar named James as the "Technology Pioneer of the Year" and BusinessQ Magazine named him as one of their “10 Coolest Entrepreneurs”. He is also the Governor-appointed Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees at Utah Valley University.
Credibility spirals can start in a small situation with low stakes. Maybe it’s a project that is due. When someone comes through for us in that situation, and they do what they say they are going to do, we tend to give them more trust. Then we’ll ask them to do something with a little higher stakes. When they prove they can do that they earn even more trust. That same process repeats in an upward spiral of responsibility and trust.
James shared an example of how he saw this upward credibility spiral happen with his business partner. They knew each other in school, and as they built their relationship, that trust grew. It spiraled throughout the years, and now they have an implicit trust with one another, trusting everything about each other.
“When we like people we want to work with them, when we trust them we want to work with them, and then the last part is about the nuts and bolts of what we do as a business.” -James Clarke
A mentor of James’ taught him about the three things that make people want to work with each other... if we like the person, trust the person, and know that they’ll make us money. Those last two elements are obviously elements of credibility. It is important for us to instill that trust in our associates, and we do that by being reliable and ethical.
There are people we like that we don’t want to do business with and it’s often because we don’t trust them and know they aren’t reliable. We need to become the kind of people that we want to work with. We must do what we say we’re going to do, be honest at all times, especially when it’s hard, and take responsibility when things go wrong.
James did the Owner/President Management (OPM) program at Harvard Business School. He spent two years in the program and built some of the best relationships he’s ever built in his life there, working with incredible people, a handful of whom were already billionaires. It was his first experience and exposure to great business professionals.
The program didn’t grant a master’s degree, but it gave James wonderful connections and the credibility that comes with saying he went to Harvard. James realized that a master’s degree would give him even more credibility, so he decided to go to Oxford. This is another school that provides instant credibility.
Why do these schools provide so much credibility to graduates? One reason may be that they have rigorous application and interview processes, and the programs themselves are rigorous. Graduates from these schools are considered intelligent and hard working.
In addition, most people believe in a traditional education like this. Society generally supports the idea that the best way to become educated is to attend a university, and one of these prestigious universities will give us an even more prestigious education. Wherever we are in the process of our education, receiving higher education, if that is an option, maybe something to consider because it may give us greater credibility.
“Upon the subject of education… I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in.” -Abraham Lincoln
We don’t generally think about love as a part of business, but there are a couple of concepts related to love that build credibility. For example, we don’t care what someone has to say until we know that they care about us and what we’re doing. This also plays into the credibility spiral. When someone really loves us, we are open to them giving us good advice, and we’ll apply their advice more often. When their advice works in our lives, they have more credibility in our eyes, and we listen to their next advice more, and the credibility just keeps building.
James has hired thousands of employees, and he’s seen this play out with many of them. If it doesn’t work out with an employee, it’s usually for one of two reasons. The first reason, which is very rare, is that they just don’t get it. They don’t have the mental capacity, or they don’t have what it takes to understand.
The second reason is that they just don't care. They just don’t love what they’re doing, so they don’t care about their job or the people they’re working with. Unfortunately, when this is the situation, we can feel it in every part of what they’re involved in.
This is why it is important to go into fields that we love and work with people we love. We will do better work, give better advice, and rise in our credibility spiral with those around us.
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” -Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States
There is another angle of love that we can relate to marketing, which is passion-marketing. This is finding what customers love and connecting with them through those top-level passions. At PetIQ, where James worked for about 10 years, they didn’t focus on their products in their marketing. Instead, they focused on what their customers are passionate about their pets. They were no longer pet owners, they were pet parents. For many of their customers, their pets are like their children, so they used that passion to market to their customers.
James has done this kind of thing in other organizations as well. In healthcare, for example, James can’t imagine anything nobler than trying to save people’s lives, so they talk about helping cure highly infectious diseases, which is something that people can be highly passionate about.
When James was selling CLEARLINK, he started doing business with a good friend of his. Six months into this service, James was billed for the equivalent of five years of fees in one single quarter. He knew something was wrong but didn’t know what. James immediately brought it to the attention of his friend, who humbly apologized and said he would take care of it.
James thought the issue was a mistake that had been completely resolved and continued to work with the friend, but he soon learned that the same thing had happened to others that James had referred to as his friend. They had all been overbilled and not by small amounts but by hundreds of thousands of dollars. That relationship ended before it really began. Fast forward to today that individual has now been sentenced and is headed to federal prison. We need to be sure we always strive to do what we say we’re going to do so we increase instead of destroying our credibility.
“Once you lose your credibility, you can never restore it.” -Reinhold Messner, Italian mountaineer, explorer, and author
James and his aunt both had a very similar upbringing. They came from middle-class families, working on their family’s farms. James’ aunt built her own global business named Diet Center and was very successful. She was also very generous, always telling James he could borrow her very nice car, or asking him how she could help his school. She was a great example of James being successful and giving back, and he thought, “If she could do it then I can do it.” She and her husband were truly authentic and credible. They got behind different causes, and they really helped build up the community. James thinks of her as the most credible person in his life because she was very successful and generous.
Thank you so much James for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
Connect with James
If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about or connect with James or his business, you can find him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesclarke2/.
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