Who’s Got Your Back?

Everyone talks about relationships. We want and value them, and we claim to be committed to building them, but do we really understand them? I doubt that we really know how to build them, but let’s save that discussion for a future blog. Right now I want to focus on what relationships look like in action, which essentially comes down to having each other’s back. If you have my back and I have your back, then I’d say we have a relationship. There are degrees of relationship, but at their core there’s always an element of looking out for each other – in other words, having each other’s back. We usually talk about having someone back in terms of our friends, but these relationship essentials are and should be a part of any business relationship. Unfortunately, many people still believe that relationships are touchy-feely and a “nice to have”, rather than key ingredients for personal and professional success.

Many years ago I heard a story that reminded me that relationships and their value are not only real, but essential for any organization. A friend of mine was sharing with me the story of her grandfather’s company, a family business that she had ultimately begun working in several years ago. Her grandfather had dealt with several serious health issues over the years, which had caused him to trim the business operations to allow him to continue to operate the business despite his health issues. However, when her grandfather was finally unable to continue in the business the family discovered that there were significant amounts past due and owing to several of the company’s vendors. This is where the power of relationships story really begins – when we see the magic of relationships.

Unlike many companies who go silent during difficult times, the family members immediately reached out to the vendors and indicated that while they had challenges with making full payments, they fully intended to continue doing business with the suppliers and they intended to pay the past due balances. In response, the vendors shocked the family members by indicating that they were happy to continue as a supplier for the business and that as far as they were concerned the past due balances did not have to be paid. They made it clear that over the years the grandfather had looked out for them when they had their lean or difficult times, and had always made it clear that he was an investor in the relationship. It was because of this relationship that they had continued to supply the business despite not getting paid in a timely fashion (if at all). It was these same relationships – built up over the years – that were causing these businesses to not focus just on “business,” but rather on the relationships.

Ultimately, the family members worked out a payment arrangement that allowed them to pay back the past due balances over time, but only because they insisted; not because the vendors and suppliers demanded payment. They made it clear that the family’s grandfather had been investing in them and the relationships for many years, and it was okay with them if the company needed to take some relationship withdrawals in terms of the past due amounts. How often does that happen in business today?  I’m not suggesting that it never happens, but we all know that it’s the rare exception when it happens today, but that used to be how business was done across all industries. Today, we have a “business is business” mentality that has cost us the value and impact of real relationships.

Relationship building is not touchy-feely; it’s about investing in others rather than focusing solely on what’s best for us or what’s in it for us. The outcome of this investor’s mindset and of building genuine relationships is an emotional connection that is virtually impossible to break and that brings real value to both parties. Relationships work and they can help any business succeed both in good times and bad times, and this story tells me that it’s about time that we go “old school” and get back to building genuine relationships with the people we do business with, both inside and outside of our organization.

There was a time when business was all about relationships, and this economic downturn over the past several years have shown us that it’s not only time to get back to a relationship-based business model, but it’s essential for any business that not only wants to survive but to thrive. If you’re looking for magic in your business, then make sure you know who’s got your back and remember … it all starts with your investment in them.

Whos Got Your Back


  1. Kathy Yaros says:

    This is the reason that whenever, and wherever I can, I use local vendors. Even when I am approached by other local vendors and I explain the relationships that I have with my “go-to” people, I feel they respect this.

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