While I am always advocating the importance of building relationships in business, specifically building strong ones, there needs to be very clear boundaries established. In most business relationships there should be limits on what information you pass on or talk about as there is always the possibility the person you are talking to is going to walk out of your business and into your competitors' and tell them everything.
I don't want to sound paranoid, but I have personally experienced this, on more than one occasion and it cost me a lot of money each time.
I once spoke to a supplier about a project I was tendering for. I thought I new this sales representative pretty well, we always had friendly interactions and I trusted him. I discussed prices and the outline of my tender only to find out that a last minute submission by a competitor got the project because they were cheaper. I smelt a rat.
I did a little research and found out that the brother of my supplier worked at the competitors' business. A coincidence? Not likely, even though that can be the nature of doing business. I learned a valuable lesson from this and moved on, but since then I have been much more cautious about what I tell people.
Further to this a lot of people confide in me about their business. What would happen to my reputation if I didn't honor their trust and started giving away their trade secrets? This is a quick way to develop an unethical reputation.
So in short, build relationships but keep your cards a little close to your chest. No matter how strong the relationship appears to be, there are some things that should not be shared.
Think about how much information you or your staff pass on. Is it too much? Do your staff have clearly defined boundaries on what information they can share and what information is considered confidential and not to be given out for any reason? If not, today is the day to clarify this point.
We need to be careful with any of the confidential information that we share about our business, because we simply don't know where it will end up and what possible problems it could cause if it is in the wrong hands. Sadly not everyone is ethical, especially when money is involved.