A very good friend of mine called the other day looking for some advice. (I warned him that advice is usually worth exactly what you pay for it, but he still asked.)

First, let me preface his story by saying I’ve known my friend (I’ll call him John, not his real name) for about eight years now. John’s in sales and I’ve had numerous opportunities to observe how he takes care of his customers, even when they’re not watching.

In my opinion, John is one of the most ethical, honest guys I’ve ever known — a very straight-up dude. He truly wants to take care of his customers and would never intentionally do anything to lose their trust in him.

And that’s where the story began. The details aren’t important, but suffice it to say, John found out that he had inadvertently been overcharging a particular customer for several years. The customer figured it out before John did and was hopping mad. The customer not only wanted the overpayments back, but stated he probably couldn’t trust John anymore and, most likely, would find another vendor.

John was extremely mortified and embarrassed. He admitted to me that he’d gotten complacent with a long-time customer and had no excuses for dropping the ball on something so important. He knew he blew it.

John had a meeting set up with the customer and wanted to see if I had any words of wisdom. To his credit, John wasn’t asking me to help save the account, just what he could do to make things right for the customer.

Wikipedia defines TRUST as a "relationship of reliance." That’s pretty good. Both parties feel they can rely on each other.

But what exactly does that mean, to "rely on each other?" IMNSHO, I told John I didn’t think it meant things would be perfect all the time. In any relationship (personal or business) things can and do go wrong. In business, deliveries can be late…products can be defective…invoices can have incorrect prices. And every relationship is always human-to-human.

Having a trusting relationship doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. It means that you TRUST the other person will fix a problem when something goes wrong. And because trust is a relationship of reliance, it also means that when you make a mistake, you can trust the other person will let you fix it.