Monday, November 3, 2008

Business Relationships

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day who happens to work in the legal profession. I sparked an interesting discussion with him when I mentioned a piece I read by JP Rangaswami who made some really interesting points about reputations and relationships, including the difference between how they are perceived in the East and West. It triggered a great discussion.

As you may have gathered from my previous post on the Cluetrain, I am a big believer in fostering strong business relationships. This includes within a team and a company but especially with external suppliers and customers. I'm not talking about wishy washy relationships either or those biased in favor of one side but real ones where all parties can freely share information to enable positive results for all. True win-win. I'm not being all liberal and naive here either. I've seen this work with amazing results.

I was asking my friend about how often he saw really stupid legal trials where if only the protagonists really talked to each other it would get resolved a lot quicker and a lot more amicably. He said there were so many examples where cases ran on and on for no reason other than "ego" or misguided attempts at showing what they thought was strong leadership or trying to be "the alpha male" or just being nasty. In my own experience I've seen this so many times also with bosses, suppliers, colleagues, customers and many others. People adopt entrenched positions, they try to beat down suppliers rather than build strong relationships with them, managers "command and control" their teams rather than supporting them, colleagues "play politics" at others expense. The list goes on. I hate it.

JP's thoughts on reputations and relationships resonates with me because in my opinion it summarises very succinctly how business should be conducted.