The value of relationships

In business, you hear a lot
of talk about numbers.
There’s revenue and profit, but there’s one line you won’t
find on any accounting ledger:
relationships.

Relationships are intangible
and hard to measure, but if
you are successful, you probably have quite a few of them.
If you have solid relationships
with your vendors, your customers and your employees,
you most likely have solid
profits. There’s no one in
accounting that can really
show you the direct results of
your efforts, but you know
that the payback from these
relationships does eventually
help the top and bottom lines.

Take Dan Gilbert for example. The chairman and
founder of Quicken Loans
and the majority owner of the
NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers
has always put an emphasis
on relationships. Quicken
Loans has been voted one of
the top places to work for the
last five years.

He spends a full day
reviewing the expectation
that employees will feel
empowered to take action
and make things right as part
of the company’s culture. He
rewards innovation — last
year, 600 employees won all-expenses-paid trips to Puerto
Rico for their contributions
to making Quicken better. He
sends signed cards to each of
his 4,000 employees on their
birthdays.

All of these things are meant
to build a relationship between
his company and its employees so that they, in turn, will
do the right thing and build
relationships with customers
and suppliers. As a result, last
year alone, the company closed on $19 billion in loans
and is the nation’s largest
online mortgage company and
the 12th largest mortgage
lender in the nation.

Relationships are the basis
of what can help you get
through a difficult period.
Over time, all you really have is your reputation, which
comes directly from how you
treat people.

When things get tough, the
first instinct of a CEO is often
to let employees go, look for a
new vendor with cheaper
prices or switch managers.
Sometimes, you are left with
no choice but to make those
kinds of drastic moves, but
other times, it has more to do
with company leaders thinking about themselves first.
Why spend years building relationships with people and
then throw it all away at the
first sign of trouble? When you
do that, you are putting your
integrity and character at risk.

Most relationships falter
when a dispute arises. It could
be over price, service or the
terms of a contract. But whatever the reason, instead of having a knee-jerk reaction,
work to keep your relationship with the person intact
using these steps:

  • Treat people with respect.
    Many disputes arise from a
    simple misunderstanding or
    breakdown in communication,
    so approach the situation
    calmly and give the person the
    benefit of the doubt.

  • Communicate, communicate,
    communicate.
    Try to talk to the
    person directly so you can
    compare all the facts of the
    situation to try to reach a
    mutually agreeable resolution.
    If you can’t talk to them or
    aren’t getting results, write the
    person a letter that explains
    your feelings on the matter
    and what the resolution is that
    you would like.

  • Use a third party. Sometimes, a mutual friend or
    someone who is neutral can
    help you reach a consensus
    on what should be done to
    resolve the problem.

  • Legal system. Even if it
    comes to this, there are still
    options beyond going to court.
    Arbitration and mediators are
    options that will save both
    parties time and money.

It’s worth the work to salvage a relationship and
resolve the dispute. Doing so
will help keep your reputation intact and maybe save a
few friendships along the
way. In the movie “It’s a
Wonderful Life,” it wasn’t revenue or profits that saved
Jimmy Stewart’s character, it
was the relationships he had
with people. And, in the end,
relationships are what life is
all about.

FRED KOURY is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your
comments at (800) 988-4726 or [email protected].

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