In the early days of our business, We were often forced to pay our suppliers, for everything in cash. At the same time, our key customer, the government, paid us usually after 30 days, or more. This meant we had to borrow to buy materials for our projects.

I knew that the larger, more established players in our industry, did not have this problem, because they had terms from the suppliers; the same ones who demanded cash from us. So, we always had terrible liquidity problems in the business, and we were often chased around, and even embarrassed by creditors.

Our bank manager was an elderly lady, and one day, I sat down with her and explained our problem. She told me one of my largest suppliers, was also a client of the bank. She brokered a meeting, and told the supplier, she could vouch for me, as a trusted customer, because I was as she put it, “frugal and sensible with money”.

The supplier agreed to give us a small credit limit. I promised to allow the supplier free access to information about everything I was doing. If I got a new contract, I told them immediately, and when we got paid, or the payment, was late, I told them. We started small, but soon, they increased the limit. Before long, we became their largest single customer. We had built a partnership based on a common interest.

Over the years, as this supplier prospered through our relationship, he enthusiastically introduced me to other trusted suppliers. Sometimes, when the same suppliers, heard about a major new project, they would call me, and tell me to try and get it…. It was good business for all of us:

We had built a “circle of trust”.

That was when we were small, but those principles remained with me, and even now, we have similar relationships, with global suppliers, around the world; in places like China, India and Sweden. There are suppliers of ours, who have even recommended to governments, to give us licenses! Your suppliers (the ones you may now call your “creditors”….. because you have not paid them); and even your banks, they are running businesses, just like you. Invest in getting to know them:

Make yourself a trustworthy partner to them.

Success comes from creating a “circle of trust”, between your business, your customers, your suppliers, and your lenders. The more people enter, this circle of trust, the more you prosper, and the more the nation itself, prospers. This is part of the “mystery of capital”.
And, when the economy of your country enters a difficult time, (as all countries, do from time to time), it can be all that stands between you and bankruptcy: your circle of trust.

If you go back to my story about how, I fought for five years, to get a license, you will see threads of the “circle of trust”, that I had built.

Now go build your, circle of trust.

By Strive Masiyiwa
African Business Magnet

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