Business is about Friendships

In business, we tend to spend most of our energy making deals, but in the rest of life our priorities are different. We buy things for our family members, we have friends over for dinner, and we give our time freely to those in need. The idea of treating business relationships differently perplexes me.

When I first started negotiating I thought it was all about the deal. It’s true that closing is all that matters when negotiating—just like shipping is all that matters when creating a product—but you rarely close because you spoke the right words. Closing is about trust.

Fast, smooth talking people are on their way out; soon they won’t have a place in the business world. The era of people willing to invest in relationships has begun, again. Many people predicted that social media would isolate us, but it’s done the opposite in business: It’s made it easier to get to know someone. Social media has done something else as well, that I don’t think many people have noticed. Social media has made it easier to find out if someone is telling the truth. It’s made it easier for me to trust some people, and it’s also made it easier for me to prove that someone is untrustworthy. (You heard that last line right—I’m verifying what you tell me.)

Relationships have always mattered. Now people can test them faster.

When I look back on the best business deals I’ve made, they were all based in good friendships. I trusted the people I was working with, and they trusted me. We had mutual trust because we had spent time getting to know each other. I keep a teapot in my office for this purpose. And I need to use it more: I need to ask more people to have tea with me.

What’s more important to you: this deal, or a relationship? If you only care about the deal, you will get something now. But if you care about the relationship, you will get the deal, future deals, and the most important thing: a friendship. I care about the people I do business with, and I hope they care about me. I pray for the people I do business with, and I hope they pray for me.

Deals are temporary. Relationships last.

It’s amazing how right Jesus was: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 19:19).

Love your business friends like you would love your other friends. Care about them. Be there for them. Pray for them. Love them. And they will love you.

How do you develop friendships with future business partners? Please share your ideas.

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