I have just liked a blog I read on LinkedIn a couple of days ago – ‘No, you are not running late, you are rude and selfish’, by Greg Savage. Closer examination revealed that this was a link to a site which featured the piece in October 2013. Even more digging led me to the original posting in July 2011. So, in a disposable era for the written word, this short article is being re-discovered and shared over three years after its creation. It is still striking chords and inviting debate.

That’s because it gets to the core of what makes relationships flourish or fail, namely respect. In business, it takes more than mutual regard to establish a working relationship. Both parties will need to evidence the will and expertise to complete the assignment in question. But the potential for lack of respect to diminish and ultimately kill a relationship is easy to underestimate.

This is particularly true because small acts of neglect, like being late for meetings, punch well above their weight on the respect scale. I recall conducting a relationship evaluation for a highly creative agency some years ago. One of their key clients was a train company which had recently moved its marketing team into fashionable offices in London. The vibe there was informal, open plan, loft apartment style, more agency than client at the time in truth. The agency loved visiting, continued to bring great work but started to drive the clients mad. Why? Partly because executing great work always puts a strain on the most robust relationships but mainly because they had allowed the casual feel of the client premises to infect their attitude to timekeeping. They had begun habitually to show up late for meetings.

The agency had missed one vital point. To capture the frustrations of the senior client, ‘They don’t understand, Paul. Yes we want to work in a pleasing, stimulating environment but we are a timetable company. If the 8.04 leaves at 8.09, we get an earful. It is part of our DNA to run to schedule across the whole business.’

In keeping with the quality of this agency, they responded immediately to my feedback, of which this was a part, and the relationship was re-booted. But it was a close call. The issue was not a few minutes here and there but a fundamental respect for a client’s business purpose and effectiveness.

On the positive side, also, small acts of kindness can help build a level of rapport and trust which powerfully underpin strong partnerships and buy time when inevitably the going gets rough on the work front.

From an agency standpoint, this is a timely reminder if Avi Dan’s recent Forbes blog (‘What CMOs are saying about the future of their relationships with agencies’  view article ) provides a widely accurate picture of the “points of friction” identified by clients in their current partnerships. His consultancy’s study suggests that there are some meaty challenges to address.

As we close in on the end of 2014, apparently enjoying, in the UK and US anyway, the ‘Goldilocks’ stage of an economic recovery (‘Not too hot, not too cold but just right’), now is a good time to make a plan for optimising key relationships, priming the partnerships for maximum mutual benefit in 2015.

And remember, the big things in commercial relationships are tough enough without all the great work being undone by the little things.