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Comment: Connectivity and confidence is about trust

I write this having just returned from the Praxity Global Tax Conference in Lisbon. Not personally being a Tax Geek, I really can’t comment on the content except to say that the evaluation reports all seem to rate it highly.

However, I can say that the one thing that stood out was how interconnected the delegates seemed. OK, some will have worked with each other already, but that’s not what I mean.

Currently, almost all professional firms will say they are their clients’ ‘trusted advisors’ – we even do that confidently within the Praxity Alliance – although as Mandy Rice-Davies said, ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they?’.

Being trusted by your clients is important for the continued success of your firm, for sure.

In today’s interlinked and cross-border markets, where even the corner shop has suppliers from other states or countries, it’s vital to be able to pick up the phone or drop an e-mail to a colleague in another jurisdiction and be confident they’ll support you and your client in the manner you would want.

Such confidence only comes with trust. And this form of trust is not generated by just looking up a name in a directory. Sometimes, you have to rely on a person you trust to connect you with a third person they trust in the jurisdiction you need. But this brings its own challenges.

How do you interact and create this key element of trust? Well, we are all now ‘slaves’ to e-mails, some (even amongst the powerful) to tweets or videoconferencing and, of course, the telephone in one form or another. These do generate varying limited levels of connectivity but, for me, absolutely nothing can compare with face-to-face meetings.

Further, I believe that deep trust and understanding can best be developed if you have shared at least one purely social encounter with a person face to face as well as interacted in a business environment. Perhaps a meal, a sporting event or some other enjoyable non-business-orientated episode.

Which is one reason why, when I travel, I always try to build in time to talk and socialise with my colleagues if at all possible.

Think about it. How often do you ‘bash out’ an e-mail to a colleague or friend or, more fashionably, send an update via Instagram, Snapchat or other social media?

Too often an e-mail can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Even more likely with messages in social media – just think of what the Twittersphere produces.

When it would be much more effective to talk. Believe it or not, that is what phones, even mobile or cell phones, were initially invented for. Amazing that now we seem to use them for so many other things and forget their prime purpose. There was an old telecoms advertising strapline ‘It’s good to talk’. I totally agree, and I’d go a little further, especially in these days of computer-generated responses and at the dawn of AI.

‘It’s good to talk face to face’.

So, next time you are about to send an e-mail, snap or tweet, stop and think.  Would a phone call be better? Better still, can I arrange to meet the person I’m sending this too and really discuss the issues in depth to our mutual benefit?  And be sure to use every opportunity that’s offered to meet with your colleagues in a non-business environment, so they can truly be called trusted collaborators.  Talk to them.  Face to face.

By Græme Gordon, Executive Director, Praxity

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