What Do We Really Mean When We Talk About Business Relationships?

business relationships, networking, trust, transactionalThis is a question I have thought about a lot. Maybe my perspective is a bit skewed due to my introverted nature. When I think relationships, I think of meaningful conversations, easygoing chit-chat and comfortable silences. And yet, there are countless posts about how to work a room, get to know the “right” people and become the go-to person when you need a resource.

Are business relationships really just relationships?

There are so many posts exhorting us to build positive relationships with complementary professionals, employees, customers, vendors, mentors and the list goes on. We are told that our success depends on the quality of our relationships with those in our business network. But what if we are making them more complicated than they need to be?

Maybe because business relationships are not exclusively about finding common interests

This may be the nub of what makes these relationships so complicated. When you’re in business, you are looking for ways to maximize profit, advantages and opportunities for your business. You are supposed to be doing this. However, you and I and just about any other person you meet does not want to feel as if they are your meal ticket.

Business relationships are really transactional relationships

In a 1996 research survey conducted by the ESRC Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge, Brendan Burchell and Frank Wilkinson write, “Trust is seen as having a central role in generating cooperation in business relationships.” This may seem obvious but trust has taken on more significance as collaboration becomes more of an innovation norm. So,  when we talk who exhibits integrity or authenticity in their online and offline demeanors, we are really asking if we can trust this person. Another factor is that our reputations are often defined and created by those we associate with. The degree with which we invest in revealing ourselves figures into the transaction.

What can you do for me + what can I do for you x how much I let you know me = depth of our business relationship

Which brings me back to my original question

What do we really mean when we talk about business relationships? It may be that we discover friendships. But, more often than not, are we really talking about how we might mutually benefit each other or how you might benefit me?

Join us for to discuss this topic on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz Friday, July 19, 2013 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT

What are the gradations of business relationships?

To what degree do we vet the people we build business relationships with?

What are the top 3 skills needed to build positive business relationships?

If business relationships are akin to friendship, then why do they challenge us?

Where does social media fit in to the process of building positive business relationships?

Since doing business globally is much easier now that before, what special considerations are there for building positive business relationships?