A good time to reboot your key business relationships

In many parts of the UK and in most business sectors, lockdown is easing, public health restrictions are becoming more flexible and economic activity is on the up.

To take advantage of this welcome shift, accepting that we are not out of the woods yet, important commercial relationships will need to be at their fully functioning best.

Over the past three months, we have become distanced from one another, often with negative impact upon our key working liaisons.

Thankfully, COVID-19 did not envelop us a decade ago when there were fewer robust options for keeping in contact. But, in relationship management, there is a significant difference between humanising the internet via the new generation of video conferencing tools and being human.

What I do is help businesses get the most from their relationships with external partners, clients, and service providers. In a bespoke and engaging three-stage Reboot process, we will Reassess, Reset and Reinvigorate the influential connections that will contribute to current stability and future growth.

Trust is the foundation of high performing business relationships

To quote a Dutch proverb, it “comes on foot but leaves on horseback”. Review my top ten drivers of trust below. Where do things stand in your key commercial alliances?

1. Do what you’ll say you’ll do – observable behaviour beats fine words
2. Be clear – about what you have done but also about what you have not done and cannot do
3. Never sacrifice your integrity – be honest, consistent, and true to yourself
4. Spend time in others’ shoes – what is in their best interests as well as yours?
5. Listen – use your ears (two) in proportion to your mouth (one)
6. Tackle issues early – they do not improve with age
7. Continually improve your knowledge and competence – commit to lifelong learning
8. Be human – impress with your IQ but also empathise with your EQ
9. Small acts of kindness – they suggest you really are prioritising a relationship
10. Give trust to receive trust – a shared sense of good intention creates positive momentum

As with any relationship, passivity is the enemy. Get active. It is time to Reboot your business relationships, to Reassess, Reset and Reinvigorate.

This is what I can help you achieve.

Great business relationships are driven by understanding

Understanding what? The needs of the other party. This connection has been challenged during lockdown.

In my view, for agencies, the top five needs of clients are:
1. Access – to key people and data, earlier involvement, better planning
2. Clarity – of direction and success criteria, clear briefs, processes, feedback
3. Decision-making – transparent, consistent, timely
4. Fairness – in valuing agency input, roster management, overall behaviour
5. Appetite – for the agency’s best work, for embracing change

The equivalent needs, for clients of agencies, are:
1. Best people – experienced, agile, skilful
2. Business understanding – beyond what the client might need from the agency
3. Continuity – not letting the rhythm of work dictate the rhythm of relationship
4. Proactivity – adding value, sharing relevant ideas, without being asked
5. Collaboration – with other agencies, with the clients’ internal clients

My work as a consultant with clients and agencies has focused on maintaining and nurturing understanding within important commercial alliances.

Now is a good time for a relationship Reboot.

In nurturing business relationships, our behaviour is what counts

What we do tends to influence the judgment of others more than what we think or say. Right now, our actions are constrained as we wrestle with undiluted remote working.

Here are five suggestions for maintaining effective business relationship behaviour:

1. Set the bar daily – despite COVID-19, our expectations of each other have never been higher. ‘Good enough’ isn’t. You will gain credit, and mostly be forgiven, for consistently going the extra mile

2. Keep the relationship consultative – where continuity, relevance, and energy meet. Don’t just keep in touch. Establish a rich, seamless dialogue fuelled by mutual understanding and benefit

3. Respect the small stuff – despite current allowances, repeated lapses in attention to detail exhaust the confidence of already stressed associates, internal and external

4. Show warmth, not just competence – of these two dimensions, psychologists have shown that the former is more significant in how we are evaluated by people we meet

5. Look after yourself – to be your best, finding a healthy balance of work and relaxation is vital. Your brain is not a machine and its performance is compromised by the demands of ‘always on’

Towards renewed engagement in business relationships

As social restrictions begin to relax, key commercial alliances will all need to be re-energised.

Here are five tips for achieving this outcome:

1. Make relationship management strategic – with target audiences, objectives, means and measures. Understand others’ needs, adopt relationship behaviour

2. Revisit ways of working – clarify the immediate term. In the new and evolving landscape, exactly how will individuals and teams work together

3. Fix a planning meeting – co-own the longer term, however uncertain. Make time for this, it is important. Re-calibrate goals and expectations

4. Know afresh your own business – be clear about what you have learned during the pandemic, the implications for your business model and how you will now add value

5. Schedule some social time – lack of human contact will have taken its toll. 93% of communication is non-verbal. Be imaginative, have some fun

And, adding a 6., if you need help, engage an experienced third party to Reassess, Reset and Reinvigorate your important business relationships.

Let’s Reboot.

If this resonates with you, please get in touch. Visit https://www.bigfootconsulting.co.uk/ and/or email me at paul@bigfootconsulting.co.uk