The phrase ‘Trust but Verify’ was emphatically used by former US President, Ronald Reagan during his dialogues with Michael Gorbachev, then-leader of the Soviet Union. Reagan picked up the phrase from an American writer called Suzanne Massie, who told him that Russians like to talk in terms of proverbs and that ‘Trust but Verify’ was also commonly used by communist revolutionary Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, also known as Lenin. Trust in international business is of course crucial. What about verifying and verifying what?

The Impact of the Unknown

When it comes to international business, the factor of the unknown can cause fear and mistrust, which in turn can lead to a paralyzing need for verification and more mistrust. Trust can be built more efficiently if one is willing to understand the other party. Accepting the way an international customer, provider or partner conducts business will increase the speed towards your success.

The Impact of Speed

Speed matters when launching or expanding into international markets. Many businesses that launch or expand internationally are small or medium-sized companies that can’t sustain costly mistakes for an extended amount of time. The aspects of steady progress and sufficient trust need to be balanced during the process of international expansion. Trust in international business is however greatly impacted by cultural differences.

The Impact of the Known

When people say that building trust takes time, they actually refer to the fact that verification takes time. Reagan reduced the time to build trust through the guidance of an international expert like Massie. Reagan met Gorbachev for the first time in 1985. Only five years later, just after his presidency, he was greeted by Gorbachev with a sincere bear hug at his return to Russia. Culture matters. International experts matter.

The Impact of Trust

‘Trust but Verify’ is indeed a powerful proverb, because it contains both the elements of trust and time. Regarding international business, these two elements are crucial. Finding a trusted partner to support international expansion has an impact on both, as connections are turned into relationships and opportunities into revenues much faster.

An article about “assumptions in international businesscan be found here.

Want to avoid the most common mistakes when working internationally? Read this article.

An article on international management expectations can be found here.


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About Peter van der Lende

Peter van der Lende International business development

Peter has joined forces with Culture Matters.

Because he has years and years of international business development experience joining forces therefore only seemed logical.

Being born and raised in the Netherlands, he has lived in more than 9 countries of which most were in Latin America.

He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) with his family.

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We're looking for new Podcast Guests!

We're looking for new Podcast Guests!

If you think you or someone you know would make a good guest for our Culture Matters on International Business, drop us an email.

(make sure you or the person you know will be able to talk about International affairs!)

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