What is the most important thing in a business relationship? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
There are plenty of books, articles, and even classes that purport to teach you how to network and build strong business relationships.
But building business relationships shouldn't be viewed as a skill you need to learn and deploy at will.
Once it becomes a skill, then it's not a relationship anymore. It's a transaction. And it's easy to tell when someone is taking a transactional approach. If you have the wrong intentions when you begin a relationship, your actions will reveal your true colors.
Every relationship is about connecting with someone. Humans are social, tribal--and we all have the tools necessary to build a bond with someone else at our disposal. If your intentions are good and there's mutual motivation to develop a connection, then things will likely progress of their own accord--no book, article, or class required.
I see business relationships divided into two areas: friendships and partnerships.
There are slight nuances to each, but both come down to having the right incentives and intentions.
Business relationships are about emotional connections, not potential benefits.
Both friendships and partnerships require an emotional connection and trust, just like all relationships. To build and develop that trust, you have to spend time with people, getting to know them and finding common ground.
I have plenty of friends I see only about twice a year. I'll see them once at the JP Morgan conference in January, and then again randomly at some point during the year. There's no specific reason we meet up besides the fact that they're my friends, and I want to see them.
Many of these relationships have ended up helping me down the line. I've gotten jobs, landed investments, and discovered leads thanks to these casual friendships.
The difference is: I never began any of those relationships with the idea I could get something out of them. They never began as transactional relationships. They were all naturally occurring friendships that ended up being mutually beneficial as we got older and took on more senior positions. When we found ourselves in a position to help each other, we did.
The point is, don't call people and meet them only when you need something. Be open to a business friendship that may never produce any "results" for you. That's what makes life interesting and fun.
Some partnerships require persuading people to work with you.
Business partnerships are somewhat different from friendships. You often don't have a long history together to act as the basis of your relationship. In a sense, you're trying to persuade someone to work with you.
You have to get them to see that this partnership makes sense--for both of you.
First and foremost, you both have to bring equal opportunities to the table. Just like a friendship, a partnership won't work out if only one side is making all the contributions.
But partnerships are still based on an emotional connection. People often won't see the rationale for working with you until you've bonded and built trust. For instance, there are times when you can convince someone logically that it makes sense to work on a certain project. But if that person's heart isn't in it, you won't be able to get him or her to follow through. A relationship without an emotional connection lacks a foundation.
If your incentives aren't aligned--passion, relationship, trust--you can spend a huge amount of time working on the partnership to no avail. It will still fall apart.
It's essential to remember that when you're reaching out to people, you must try to gain their trust and work together.
Ultimately, people bond in communities of interest.
In any industry, people have common interests, attributes and motivations that bond them together. You'll find your business relationships often spring from those commonalities.
Early on in my career I was given a great piece of advice: Pick one or two conferences and go to them every year.
Going to the same conferences year after year is a good way to connect with new people and catch up with old friends. People know you'll be there, and you can catch up over lunch or a drink.
Those conferences can also act as a gathering place for people who have the same interests. You know--your kind of conference, your kind of people.
In an industry like biotech, the level of schooling and training is often very high. You're surrounded by MDs and PhDs. The seeds of a relationship are often built through the shared experience of that lengthy education. Even if people weren't in the same school, they probably saw each other in conferences or knew of their research through papers.
And people in every industry tend to have shared experiences, common traits, or goals that help forge a bond with other industry insiders. I'd encourage you to look at those connections simply as opportunities to meet new people and develop organic friendships over time. That's how you'll create lasting relationships in every area of life.
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