Dr. Earl R. Smith II

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I was discussing business relationships with a couple of long time friends and associates last evening. The discussion turned to the question of ‘what makes for a good business contact?’ In a relatively short time we agreed on three characteristics that were the ‘first screen’.

Clarity: It is important that the individual have a clear grasp of their focus, likely contribution and the basis upon which they are prepared to make it. Most of us had had experiences meeting unfocused types who were just looking for shelter and a source of income. We quickly agreed that, with these unfocused people, building productive business relationships are well neigh impossible. “Give me someone who knows exactly what their contribution is going to be, what it is worth and how to deliver it.” was the way one put it.

We concluded that it is also important that they have a solid grasp of the opportunity to collaborate and reasonable expectations of the potential result. Central to this is a firm understanding that any good business relationship is a two-way street. “I shy away from people who seem to have trouble understanding the dynamic of the present situation,” offered one of the group.

Finally, we decided that the ability to understand the interests and agenda of the other person is a critical skill in building good business relationships. We all had the experience of listening to the equivalent of “you sell my product and that will solve my problem – and you will get the joy of selling a good product”. “If they can’t grasp what is really important to me then they will not help me meet those needs – so why should I help them meet theirs?”

Consistency: One of our number described it this way – “this guy was all over the lot – trying to be the proverbial jack of all trades”. We decided to call this one the ‘tracks-in-the-snow’ screen. If a person doesn’t have an extended and successful experience in a particular area or service, they are unlikely to make a good business partner.

Finally, we thought that reliability was a critical characteristic. All of us had relatively the same approach to this issue – we would set a couple of relatively minor tasks – evenly on both sides – and observe the outcome. Individuals who didn’t or couldn’t deliver at that level were quickly crossed off the list of potential associates. The idea here was quite simple – if they were unreliable or easily made excuses to non-delivery – during the get acquainted phase, they were likely to be the same when things were really on the line.

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II