A few months ago, I took a trip to Asia to meet with our manufacturers for ThirdLove. And by early evening, all I wanted to do was to go back to my hotel room and decompress. I was jet-lagged, my schedule was completely full every day, and I always had emails to check from the team in San Francisco.
But instead of diving headfirst into my hotel bed, I went out to dinner every night with one of our manufacturing partners. I wanted to get to know them on a more personal level.
A lot of people forget how important it is to develop personal relationships with their business partners. They're busy enough as it is, and they figure there's no need to put forth the effort.
I can tell you from experience, that's the wrong attitude. You should never underestimate the power of a personal relationship:
Put in work upfront to get to know your partners.
People forgo building business relationships for a very simple reason: they just want to get the job done.
They're paying a vendor for a service, and it seems like cutting to the chase is the easiest way for both parties to get what they need.
But here's the catch--working to create a healthy relationship will pay dividends down the road. When someone knows you, likes you, and sees that you care about them as a person, they'll work harder for you.
And if there is a mistake or an issue, your preexisting relationship will determine how both parties react. Since my trip to Asia, there haven't been any problems with the product or manufacturers. But if something were to go wrong, my conversation with the CEO will be very different now that we've sat down, had dinner, and talked face-to-face.
The best kind of business relationship is built on trust. And in order to trust someone, you have to get to know them. Although it would have been easier for me to skip the trip to Asia, it was worth the time and the investment to establish those relationships.
Once you have that connection, you can rely on your business partner when things go wrong or when you need help. There's another layer beyond just the contract.
Create a better environment for feedback.
Without a doubt, it's much easier to give constructive feedback when you have a personal relationship with someone. If you don't have one, it's difficult for the other person to accept any feedback. This can be especially problematic when a critical decision is on the line.
And relationships go both ways.
We really pride ourselves on being open to feedback at ThirdLove, and we want our vendors to operate the same way. We always tell them, "Let us know what we can do better." We know we're not perfect.
For instance, we design our products in San Francisco, but there have been times over the years when our manufacturing partners in Asia have suggested an update to the design to make the sewing and manufacturing process easier.
Of course, we don't just default to what's easiest. We still have to ensure those changes won't affect the quality or fit of the bras. But by being open to feedback, we've been able to improve our design template. It's simpler to have honest conversations and make changes like this once you've established a personal relationship.
Establish a connection to ease communication and set expectations.
As a leader, it's your job to make sure the people you're managing know where they stand. You can't leave them on their own without any communication and then get upset when they don't do what you want.
The same goes for any business partnership.
The relationship has to be open and fair. When you know people on a personal level, you have a better idea of how they want to communicate and what information you need to provide them with in order to be successful.
PR firms are a great example. We've worked with different PR firms over the years, and having a personal relationship with them is essential. To represent me, and ThirdLove, successfully, they have to understand not only the company's goals but also how I think and how I might respond in a given situation. That means I have to be able to communicate the strategic goals and help them understand what's most important to me and the company.
And it's easier to set expectations for a partnership when you take the time to sit down and speak to someone in person.
A personal relationship may not be the saving grace in every business partnership. But I guarantee you that developing one with your partners will be mutually beneficial and save you time and energy when you need it most.