As I am looking to buy a car, the last few days have been an arduous and time-consuming quest for finding the one that ticks all the boxes on paper. Online reviews were checked. Car reports were seen. Prices were compared. And of course, opinions from friends were sought after as well.

One thing that stands out to me is the reputation of Japanese cars. Deep down inside, I already have more trust in Japanese brands such as Toyota or Honda. As safety and durability are my highest priorities, Japanese brands stand a notch higher than others in my mind. My friends’ opinions align in that as well. The people I talked to all suggest that I look out for Toyota or Honda first, if possible.

What a great advantage to have! In a saturated market, trust and good will from customers are so valuable. Even if Japanese cars may cost me a bit more, I will be willing to spend a few more bucks because of that trust and good will. It may seem obvious now, but it is the fruit of years of work to build and maintain this image. Toyota and Honda don’t come out of nowhere and do nothing to enjoy this advantage.

It applies to humans too. We take up the words of some people faster and more assuredly than of others.

I have one professor in Finland before who used to work in Treasury. He told us in a class that if he recommended us, we could take his words to the bank. If I am to have that reputation and brand, I’ll need to put in the work, constantly, now and in the years and years to come.

Passport, Signal of Trust and Credibility

A new ranking by a Singapore-based consulting firm saw Vietnamese passport climb up a few positions compared to last year, even though it still belongs to the bottom tier. As of this year, Vietnamese citizens can travel to 61 countries where there is no visa requirement or visas can be issued upon arrival.

What does a passport signal actually?

It signals to the destination countries how trustworthy, credible and civil the passport holder is likely going to be. For instance, a US passport holder can travel to more than 100 countries without visa restrictions since being a US citizen signals that he or she comes with the credibility of the US as a nation. Meanwhile, since Vietnam is a poor country with less credibility, the citizens can only travel to 61 countries visa-free.

That’s on a macro level.

However, I have lived in 3 Western countries and traveled to more than 10 different nations without any blemish on my civil profile, not even a parking ticket. My personal track record should be sufficient for other countries to trust me. Instead, a Nebraskan who never boards a plane before can go to Canada tomorrow without a visa while I will have to apply for one and next-day trips are, hence, out of question.

The asymmetry of information and the lack of credibility of a nation that cascades down to its citizens create a lot of problems and inconvenience for some individuals.

I wish there would be a blockchain-based system in which past records are impossible to alter unless perpetrators like to waste a huge amount of computing power, information is secure and everybody can access. That way, credibility can be assessed on an individual level, not a national one.

By the way, if you are fortunate enough to be born with a powerful passport, do travel. Don’t take it for granted. Explore the world and have some compassion towards less fortunate others. Just like me, many wish to travel freely, but can’t.

The value of trust

Watching Apple WWDC event made me think about the value of trust in business.

During the two-hour event, Apple repeatedly emphasized the trustworthiness of its products and services. The message that Apple protects your privacy and secures your data was told in one segment after another. The thing is that consumers seemed to find Apple’s claim more credible than that of other companies. They trust Apple more in this sense. With that trust, Apple seems to have an easier time introducing very personal products or services to users than others. In addition to a continued push into healthcare, Apple introduced Apple Pay, HomeKit Secure – which allows you to monitor the camera at your front door and sends an encrypted copy to iCloud and Single Sign On. Without trust, I don’t think the enthusiasm would have been as much as that shown during the event. And if they want to introduce something similar to HomeKit Secure, well, good luck with that.

One of a notable releases was Mac Pro, which will cost around $6,000 apiece. though the figure itself does sound expensive, it’s not out of character for Apple. The company has been able to charge users outrageous prices for its devices, yet their annual revenue for the past decade has grown dramatically. It is evidence that consumers trust Apple enough to spend a significant sum on its hardware. In order to pay for a premium, you will need to trust that it carries out basic functions first and on top of that it is worth it. After trouble with Note 7 and the foldable phone, would you still trust Samsung enough to pay $2,000 for its phone?

Trust requires hard work and consistency. Yet, once form, it is a powerful competitive advantage and can open many doors. In some cases, I think it can be the most valuable asset a company can have.