I have mentioned previously about the importance of goals and objectives, planning, sorting the important from the urgent and giving priority to the important things. I often get asked what is the most critically important thing in business? It varies from situation to situation but if there was one thing I’d put above all else it would be developing great relationships built on mutual trust and respect.

There are critical relationships with employees, bosses, colleagues, customers, suppliers and all are important to the success of any business.

I have worked in, and with, a large number of businesses and relationships between colleagues has varied dramatically across the board and this was never more apparent than when things went badly wrong. Look at Company A and Z below, there’s a good chance you’ve worked in companies like this. How would your current company rate if there was a scale between A and Z

At Company ‘A’ if there was ever a major problem then colleagues would rally around, never looking to blame anyone but to find a solution. Then, when the problem was sorted and the dust had settled, to look for the points (almost always several factors for a major problem to occur) were things had gone wrong. Importantly never looking to find an individual to blame but to find a flaw in the system that allowed a problem to occur, and then fix it. It was never a nice thing to uncover a problem but it was normally strangely exhilarating to find a solution and it absolutely cemented relationships. People would run through brick walls for their colleagues in this company.

At Company Z, to find a problem was a source of glee and an opportunity for a witch hunt and to see who could find the magic email or communication that nailed the responsibility at some poor soul’s door. It was a miserable place to be and I didn’t stay long.

It will come as no surprise that Company A spent the next decade massively outperforming the sector in all respects whilst Company Z all but disappeared.

Strong relationships don’t happen by accident and they are certainly not created by having a company handbook that states “We operate a No- Blame Culture Here”, almost always the opposite is true.

Relationships come from investing time in understanding what is important to the other party and looking at ways to help each other that delivers mutual benefits. Going back to the Stephen Covey matrix that I have previously discussed, it is a Quadrant 2 “Important but Not Urgent” activity.

When I was in the role where we broke all records by delivering a product launch in 16 days rather than the usual 20 months there were two important elements. The first was meticulous planning, the second, and perhaps more important, was to work with suppliers and customers where a culture of absolute trust had been developed over the previous 12 months. People committed to actions that they ordinarily would not have undertaken because they believed each party in the supply chain would deliver their part of the bargain. They also wanted to support each other and rather than being put off by the challenge they were exhilarated by it.

Not only was it record-breaking, it was financially very rewarding and great fun for all parties…even if it was perhaps a little exhausting.

So how do you make these relationships work? Can you enjoy great relationships with suppliers and customers? I’ll be happy to discuss over a coffee if you are someone who really wants to make step-changes to your business and in a culture where everyone can Flourish.