A valuable lesson from Ralph, a Manhattan street vendor


What do affluent investors want most from their financial advisors? I put forth that the answer is to have complete trust in his or her financial advisor.

Furthermore, clients frequently want a financial advisor that will take away their worries and absorb all their hassles. Yet, all too often, clients encounter professionals who add to their worries and create extra headaches, forcing them to confront things they would prefer to ignore. Nevertheless, I argue that trust is about reciprocity. In other words, you help me, and I will help you.

The following simple but remarkable story underscores the impact of trust and how one man separates himself from his competition by simply trusting! The story is told by author David Horsager from his brilliant book titled, “The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line.”  It is about a street vendor, Ralph, who sells donuts and coffee on the streets of Manhattan.

What is unique about Ralph’s business model is that he allows his customers to make their own change! On a typical morning, a regular customer will order a coffee and donut from Ralph for $1.75. The customer drops $2 in the bin, takes his 25 cents and moves on to allow the next customer to do the same. Ralph doesn’t touch the money! Instead he is too busy pouring coffee and fetching donuts to worry about money.

I am sure some people take advantage of Ralph’s trustworthiness, but I suspect he makes up for it in efficiency. As the story is told, Ralph’s output of his tiny stand is amazing. He does about twice the business of his competitor with the same resources, and his customers get their coffee and donuts in half the time as they would from a competitor.

Do you think his customers love Ralph and the way he does business? You bet your boots they do. When an environment of trust is created, good things start to happen. Ralph has an incredible reputation and business; all because he delivers trust and fairness. Yes indeed, trust is everything! It’s not a technique. It’s not a sales tactic. It must be earned and when it happens, the money will follow. Just ask Ralph!