Are you a team player or do you prefer to fly solo? If you are building a practice you need to think twice about that answer. Even if you are a solo practitioner you need to have a “team players” mentality.
The way you interact and relate to others is crucial when it comes to building a trusting, solid foundation for your organization, Alan S. Berson and Richard G. Stieglitz say in their book Leadership Conversations.
“[Business owners] think, ‘I don’t have time for relationships. I need to make quick decisions and get things in order,’” Berson tells us, adding that’s actually one of the biggest mistakes business owners can make. “Relationships are the foundation of everything you are trying to achieve.” As your business grows and responsibilities increase, your relationships with customers, suppliers, competitors, industry leaders, financiers and professional advisers should also grow. In their book, the authors point out four different types of professional relationships that are crucial for success: Targeted, Tentative, Transactional and Trusted relationships. “You need to think of these relationships as a way to keep things going,” Berson says. “If you wait until you need them, it’ll be too late.” Here are the four relationships you must have as a business owner:
1. Targeted Relationships
These are the people you don’t know but who are in the same industry as you—either as peers or competitors. It’s worthwhile targeting and connecting with them, because “you will benefit from what they offer and they will benefit from knowing you.
In the legal profession these could be other lawyers as referral sources. In most practices this is not optional… it’s critical.
2. Tentative Relationships
Before you can ask someone to do something for you, you have to form some kind of relationship with him or her. If you’ve spoken briefly to someone at a conference or a networking event, that relationship is a tentative one. You might not truly know these people yet, but you know them enough to email them for a small favor or to ask them if they would be interested in getting involved in your new project.
This is where you can connect to others who can connect you to their circle and your network grows. Unfortunately, I have seen lawyers discount people because they think they cannot help them. You never know what circles that a person runs in, and you just may be surprised if you give the relationship a chance to unfold.
3. Transactional Relationships
These types of relationships are less personal and typically used by managers to accomplish specific business objectives. “They are defined by what each party can do for the other to reach near-term objectives, seldom extended into career or personal areas,” Berson and Stieglitz write. For example, relationships with customers, peers or suppliers are often transactional relationships.
These are the kind of relationships that your firm can’t survive without. You need trusted advisors to handle IT, accounting, insurance, etc. Make sure you nurture the relationships so that you get the best that individual has to offer.
4. Trusted Relationships
These are the most personal, valuable and often the “longest-lasting” relationships out of all of these. The conversations that you have with these people are usually related to long-term plans. These people are your mentors and close peers at work. This kind of relationship also needs to exist between senior executives and partners in different organizations. Business deals need to be crafted through trusted relationships. ‘Trusted relationships take the most work and longest to form, but they are worth it because they frequently create huge opportunities and have enormous long-term impacts on organizations’, the authors write.
These are the kind of relationships that get you up in the morning and make the work you do enjoyable. These are the friends and colleague that drive you to be better. They are the foundation of a thriving legal practice and reconnect you to your passion for the law. And make no mistake that this is a very exclusive group of trusted relationships… choose wisely.
I like the way the authors have defined these categories, noting that with some we need to be open minded and others exclusive. They show us that we need all four types of relationships in our professional life. Are you open to each of them?