Relationships — The Heart of It All

A guy who has been married three times should not be allowed to pen an article on the value of forming effective, long-term relationships.

Lucky for me, our ongoing topic in this newsletter, the Six Rs for a reformed supply chain, focuses on elements essential to excellence in business. I shall endeavor to keep my content focused on that area of interaction, where I have, shall we say, more positive expertise.

All things being equal, in business as well as in life in general, the quality, quantity and nature of our relationships with others makes the difference between success and failure, richness and fulfillment or barrenness and despair.

Someone discovered this a few years ago, but since the word “relationships” was too touchy-feely for the newly emerging post-baccalaureate set, a “business term” was coined to describe the importance of working well with others.

That term was “networking.”

The first time I heard the term, I had no idea what it meant. The only networks I was aware of were CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN and, of course, ESPN. My younger friends (more knowledgeable in the ways of the modern world) told me that the term referred to creating a group of acquaintances that could help me grow my career. My sensibilities did not accept this.

This was not building long-lasting relationships with people (as I had done since childhood). To me, this was using people for personal gain.

Then, a few years later, a friend related an incident that drove that point home.

He was working for a nationally renowned company as a vice president and had gotten involved in a conversation with a colleague in which the topic turned to a large IDN in the South. The colleague said, “I’d like to be able to get in to talk to those folks.” My friend told him that it was no problem; that he and the CEO were old friends, and he could set up an introductory meeting.

The colleague (let’s call him “Tom”) was excited and he asked my friend to make it happen. As a professional courtesy my friend asked the VP in the company that had territorial responsibility for the account (let’s call him “Bill”) if he would like to attend as well. Bill said he would, and my friend set up the meeting, but not without reservations, because Bill was a notorious self-server and infighter—one whose every action was for personal gain. My friend and his colleague talked it over with their shared boss and the boss said that inviting Bill was the right thing to do.

The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the CEO to Tom, and along the way, perhaps use a moment to position my friend’s company better with the IDN.

From the start of the meeting, Bill tried to take over. Evidently, he had been on a long international flight with the CEO a few years earlier and he tried to dominate the conversation by referring to that trip. The CEO did not remember Bill. When that ploy didn’t work, Bill wanted to launch into a discussion about his company and what it did (Remember: they were there on a social call to introduce the CEO to Tom).

In an attempt to put the train back on track, my friend introduced the CEO to Tom and the group spent about an hour and a half in general conversation, much of which revolved around experiences the CEO and my friend had shared over the years. At the end of the conversation my friend told the CEO that his company would like to meet with some key people in his organization. The CEO gave my friend key names, which he passed on to Bill’s subordinate, who eventually made a big sale from the discussion.

As for Bill – ever the infighter – he returned to headquarters and promptly told the COO (of course, by going over their shared boss) that my friend had wasted the company’s resources by setting up a meeting for someone in a completely different business and then spending two hours rehashing old times.

And when they did get the deal (over $50,000 in new business) he made certain to tell the COO that the woman they had been pointed to had complained to him about people going around her to the CEO. She was, of course, referring to a completely different organization than my friend’s.

So far, Bill is still cruising along. He has turned over his sales team at least once in the last four years, and some positions more than once.

The CEO and my friend are still friends and have gotten together a couple of times since. He still doesn’t remember his airplane ride with Bill.

The lesson? Real relationships work, false ones are like birds passing in the night … or on international flights.

Relationships that lead to excellence are time-tested and time-proven. They represent human interaction based on trust, respect and even the kind of love that humans should have for one another if they respect the human race and the world they live in. There are no quick ways for developing those types of relationships. They are built over hundreds, if not thousands of touch points and tens, if not scores of years.

And they are made without the expectation of a quid pro quo.

The second “R” starts the first day we interact with other human beings and lasts our entire life. There are no shortcuts to the heart, but once the work is done correctly, the benefits last forever.

Right, Bill?

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