Who would come to mind if you were asked about your most important business relationships? Would it be your largest clients, your employees, your peers? How about your smallest clients or even your competitors? The truth is All relationships are important to those who are most successful in business.
Countless books and articles have been written on the “How-To” of building effective relationships. Our goal in this blog is just to get you thinking about your relationships, which ones are most important to you, which ones you might benefit from improving and one or two tips with which to get started.
Work WITH Competitors
I learned an important lesson from reading Dave Rudd’s Dialer Fan blog on InsideARM, “When Competitors Work Together, Everyone Wins.” Dave said, “When I attended Columbia Ultimate’s Art of Success Conference, my whole outlook on competitor relationships was shaken….I was shocked when Fred Houston, Columbia Ultimate President and CEO, introduced Ron Fauquher, CEO of Ontario Systems, as his fiercest competitor—and a friend—and then asked him to the podium to speak. Why would ANYONE have their ‘fiercest competitor’ speak at their own user conference?” Dave learned that Columbia Ultimate and Ontario systems have entered into a limited partnership to provide the ARM Industry with compliance solutions. “Fantastic, I thought! Even though we are competitors, we can work together on challenging industry issues….I applaud [them] for putting competition aside and working together for the good of the industry.” Even effective relationships with our competitors could help us and our industry to be more successful.
Maintain the Same Standards for All Clients
Is it possible that not only our competitors but even our smallest clients deserve to be treated with the same respect that we give those that are currently giving us the most business? National List’s Leslie Herr said, “You never know who your next big client might be. You should treat even your smallest clients well. No one wants to babysit their attorney and manage the relationship. Word gets around. Attorneys who maintain the same standards for all of their clients often end up being pleasantly surprised when small clients grow or refer them to others.” We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t “over-promise and under-deliver” in any relationship.
Doris Kovic, Business and Executive Coach of Leading Insight, wrote, “Respect is at the heart of building business relationships. It is the glue that holds together the functioning of teams, partnerships and managing relationships. Respecting the right to differ is a concept like apple pie and motherhood. Research shows that even with the best products and business practices, you still need strong relationships to succeed.”
Don’t Burn Any Bridges
A previous National List Insider blog warns readers against burning bridges of any kind. We recounted an experience with an attorney who regretted entering into a dispute with a debt seller, even though he was right and the dispute ended in his favor. It resulted in the loss of a potential client and thousands of dollars in monthly revenue. What we learned from that experience is to never burn a bridge. Even when you are in the right, you’re sometimes better off letting go. Another NL blog you can get some good tips from is Praise that Improves Performance: Could it make your business more successful?
Create Positive First Impressions…Over and Over Again
Mark Polman, noted business management expert, knows the importance of building business relationships in developing a successful organization. One piece of advice from him is “It’s always a first impression. When you first meet a person, be it face to face or on the phone or in writing, the other person can’t help but make a snap judgment and burn into their mind their first impression of you. But have you considered that every time you interact with a person, you have the same opportunity to create that impression, be it for good or bad. Just because you know someone, don’t take the relationship for granted. Keep treating them with respect, and you will be creating positive first impressions over and over again.”
Avoid Preconceived Notions
Many of our member attorneys have learned that they are more successful if they have compassion and respect for the debtors and opposing counsel they are working with. Morgan Doughty, from Hood & Stacy, P.A. in Arkansas, told NL, “Interestingly enough, debt collection has taught me to be more compassionate towards people, and that there truly are people out there that have experienced unforeseen, devastating events that resulted in them being in overwhelming debt. I’ve learned to treat every interaction with a debtor or his or her counsel with no preconceived notions. Every case is unique and as such, must be handled in a unique way.” See “Why I Like My Job” for more attorney insights.
Learn by Example
The thing I like most about working for The National List is that everyone on the staff makes even me, a part-timer who lives out-of-state, feel like a valued employee and friend. One of the best ways to learn about effective relationships is by example. If you give us a call, I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.
By Marti Lythgoe, NL Editor