Doing Business with Internet Strangers


Here in the Caribbean, there has always been this tendency to want to meet someone before doing business with them. We want to “look dem in dem face” before deciding whether or not we can trust them or not.

We “don’t know them from Adam”, and we can’t imagine putting good money at risk with a stranger. After all, we have no idea what school they went to, who their parents are, or what their friends are like. It all makes sense in a small-town kind of way.

However, this same kind of thinking keeps networks small, and professionals suspicious. It ensures that one’s circle remains tiny, relative to the kind of network that is needed to operate a global business.

For example, in a small business, as soon as too many strangers get involved, an owner is likely to slow things down by insisting that he/she needs to meet the people involved himself.

When it comes to doing business on the internet, such thinking is damaging.

In this new era, business-people MUST become comfortable doing business with people they have never met, will never meet and who may not even speak the same language. For older business owners, this is quite difficult to do, having grown up in a time when everyone knew everyone else, and the fact that they lived on an island kept them away from much of the world.
For anyone starting a new business, however, this skill is critical — knowing how to create partnerships via electronic means.

The sister skill of creating an online presence (by design versus by accident) is just as important., as people need to know whether or not you can be trusted, and are someone to do business with, without ever meeting you.

There is a systematic way of determining who can be trusted, and who can’t. The easiest way is to learn who they are by knowing their friends. Facebook is a must in this regard.

Other ways include getting to know them through their content — what they have written, composed, photographed, listened to, painted, blogged, created, started-up, accomplished, failed at — anything that is a product of their efforts.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about “think-slicing” — a way of understanding complex ideas in a moment. Figuring out whether someone you meet on the internet can be trusted can be built on that same skill.