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The Trusted Advisor Equation

Robert S. Olszewski, CPA, AMSF Director, Outsourced Accounting & Finance Services

The Trusted Advisor Equation

The trust equation is a model first outlined in the book “The Trusted Advisor” written by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford in 2000. Trust is a critical component of any successful business relationship. But it is quite a difficult quality to measure and identify strategies to improve.

The purpose of Maister, Green, and Galford’s trust equation is to help evaluate the level of trust that exists in business relationships, whether they are business-to-business, business-to-consumer, between team members, or even from an advisor to a business. The trust equation consists of four variables to measure trustworthiness:

  1. Credibility – Being honest, authentic, and telling the truth.
  2. Reliability – Following through on your promises.
  3. Intimacy – Being comfortable dealing with human elements and emotions.
  4. Self-Orientation – Being true to one’s personality, spirit, or character despite external pressures.

These are the basic tenets of trust outlined in “The Trusted Advisor.” Through the years, I’ve been fortunate to have several clients describe or introduce me as a trusted advisor. I took it upon myself to ask them what specific actions they consider to be those of a trusted advisor. Here’s some of what they told me:

  • Someone who will “ask meaningful questions and listen to concerns that are important to us while proactively holding us accountable for responding to issues.”
  • Someone who can “clearly understand the past while designing a roadmap for the future.”
  • Someone who “speaks in plain English on technical matters; [we feel] blessed to not just have an accountant, but someone to help us navigate the rules.”
  • “When you say that you have it covered, we know that it is being handled in our best interest.”
  • You’re a “facilitator of various options and alternatives that end in a solution.”
  • “Our business is our family and you invest the time necessary to clearly comprehend our personal goals and objectives.”

The book’s authors argue that in today’s economy, technical mastery is no longer enough. The key to success is the ability to earn the trust and confidence of your clients. As you think about your business, ask yourself whether you are doing what it takes to build that trusted advisor relationship today and into the future.

Robert S. Olszewski can be reached at Email or 215.441.4600.


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Robert S. Olszewski, CPA, AMSF

Robert S. Olszewski, CPA, AMSF

Director, Outsourced Accounting & Finance Services

Outsourced Accounting & Finance Services Specialist

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