Profiles in Success: Working to reconnect and rebuild trust

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “Trust is the hardest thing to earn and the easiest thing to lose.” Any kind of relationship without trust is in trouble. Having been through some history-making turbulent times during the past three years,many Americans have lost faith in institutions they formally viewed as trustworthy – the media and big business, even our nation’s government and religious organizations. In particular, in recent years, corporate greed and lax risk management policies at the nation’s largest financial institutions and high-profile Ponzi schemes have resulted in a significant erosion of trust from Wall Street to Main Street. With the essential bonds of trust frayed, suspicion and disbelief permeate our personal and professional relationships.

While it seems like this widespread mistrust occurred overnight, in reality, it was a long time coming. Over time, factors ranging from suburban sprawl to our increasing reliance on technology have combined to create an isolationism that leaves many citizens unsure how they fit into their communities. Sadly, rather than participate in elections, volunteer in the community, or simply greet a next door neighbor, many Americans are content to retreat to their homes and engage with the world through their television or computer. Far less involved with our communities than our grandparents were, our isolationism makes us more inclined to mistrust others, individuals as well as institutions.

Of course, the highly publicized crimes and misdeeds of Bernie Madoff and British Petroleum, among many other individuals and institutions, only serve to convince inward looking individuals that putting their trust in any professional or government official will result in betrayal. That is, the more we hear about wrongdoings and unethical behavior, the more we feel justified in withdrawing from our community and withholding our trust.

As a farm boy from Nebraska who grew up in a close-knit community where your word was your bond, a personal connection to both my community and my work has always been integral to my happiness. Early in my career when I worked as an auditor, I knew the information I provided was essential to investors, yet I didn’t feel like I was adding true value. Years later, when I transitioned to the wealth management industry, I realized it was the satisfaction I gained from interacting with clients one-on-one, and doing all I could to help them reach their goals, that was missing from my previous work.

Today, even in the wake of the Great Recession, I enjoy trusting and productive long-term relationships with a wonderful group of clients. And, through my involvement with Executive Leaders Radio (, I’m working to help other small business owners to become similarly successful. By interviewing a diverse group of small business owners and sharing their words of wisdom, our program strives to help local executives connect with leaders their community, learn from the successes and innovation of others, and cultivate the trust that remains the bedrock of all successful client relationships. Further, by creating a venue that celebrates business owners and executives who conduct themselves in an ethical and commendable fashion, we hope to counter the negative stories of corporate theft and deception we are all too accustomed to finding on the front page.

Executive Leaders Radio has been very well received by the public. The shows serve several million listeners in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washing­ton D.C. and Virginia, broadcasting frequently on WHAT AM-1340, WCHE AM-1520, WYFL AM-1180, WNWR AM-1540, WHFS AM-1580 and internationally on AOL­,, SBNonline, PodcastAlley, SmartCEO and iTunes. Because they are carried on two of the three largest international internet radio stations—the #1 AOL radio and the #3 Yahoo Radio—the interviews can be listened to by 7 million people, not only in the Unit­ed States, but also in many foreign countries.

Recently, I decided to expand on the short radio interviews to produce written case studies on various radio guests. The entrepreneurialism and positive spirit expressed by the inspiring men and women profiled for this collection reflect the talent and hope our nation needs for a complete economic recovery. Even with the recession and credit crunch taking a heavy toll on U.S. small businesses, they remain the backbone of our country. Remember, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the 27.2 million small businesses across the country employ nearly half of our nation’s workforce and produce a great many innovations. Small business is critical to our economic recovery and for securing our nation’s place in the increasingly competitive global marketplace.

I intend to share this collection with business people as well as students at local universities and business schools. It’s my hope that in addition to offering insight into management techniques and tools, these compelling success stories will illuminate career paths for students. Above all, I hope that the successes chronicled here will inspire today’s college students to pursue their personal passions so that the entrepreneurial spirit that our country was built on can continue to thrive.

I hope you will enjoy these profiles as much as I enjoyed getting to know these business people and telling their stories. If you know a local business owner worthy of a future profile, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to expanding this collection in order to help build connections and foster trust in our local business community.

Gordon J. Bernhardt,
President and Founder
Bernhardt Wealth Management, Inc.