Wow! 2009 certainly provided us with some spectacular examples of how appearances are not always what they seem- The news and the resulting flood of occasionally very funny emails featuring the various offenders made for a lot of water cooler discussion and head scratching.

The fall from grace of a number of noteworthy people and companies previously considered pillars of society and commerce, has left us wondering who, if anyone, can we possibly trust? Most of us employ reasonable standards of background checks and due diligence when assessing job candidates or future business partners, but given what we have seen over the past year, are we really doing enough to understand someone’s character? The impact of the decisions we make in terms of who we hire, who we do business with and who we entrust our money to can be devastating if we have been deceived. What else can we do?

Perhaps, the lesson learned comes from reading the details in the aftermaths of most of last year’s headlines. Invariably, all the stories point out warning signs that were obvious, but ignored for many reasons.  We need to pay closer attention to obvious signals and “trust our gut.”  You know, the natural instinct you have that something is just not right, too good to be true, or that you’re being sold a bill of goods?

At Building Engines, we certainly go through standard internal processes when hiring people that includes background and resume checks as well as multiple interviews. Even with all that, we have made mistakes. When we have looked back on those mistakes, we realized that even though a candidate may have had what appeared to be all the right qualifications, there were indicators that something was slightly off, and we ignored that “feeling.”

Often, we face due diligence checks when our software and service platform is being considered by sales prospects. Sometimes they are very thorough, and occasionally, they are fairly simple. The common thread is a response I have heard from most clients who selected us when I ask the reasons why they chose us over our competitors,

“I had a good feeling about you guys.”

So, while last year’s news may leave you with an overwhelming feeling of distrust, don’t become too pessimistic. Personally, I choose to believe that most people and companies are honest and possess good intentions. However, in 2010, I will be paying closer attention to my gut.