As service businesses, we rely heavily on relationships.

There are relationships on the “front” side with our clients and customers, but there are also relationships on the “back” side with our employees and independent contractors. There are relationships with our vendors (those who serve us and our businesses with products and/or services) and those that we call “community supporters” who refer us business and support our business efforts.

Every business relationship is important and it is worth the time and effort to start, build, and keep a good relationship.

We’ve already written about how good business relationships are started (with good contracts – read that article here). Contracts are important because they contain the most important rules of behavior (or they should). That’s the foundation.

This article is about building forward and on top the foundation that a good contract gives you. It’s not just about having a good contract and that’s it – done. It’s about behaviors – human behaviors – some of which are set out in a contract (such as your service agreement or an employee/contractor agreement). But much of how we interact with each other is not written down as rules on a paper.

In day to day business, we have opportunities to have positive or adverse interactions with people. Sometimes the adverse interactions are beyond our control, but for every single interaction, we have the ability to choose how we react.

Ask any litigator and they will tell you that all lawsuits are caused by human interaction. That may seem obvious, but think about it for a minute. Every lawsuit is started by a human interaction where each person had a choice on how to act and react – or most likely, a series of actions and reactions.

The choices we make in a situation and with particular people are determined by our relationship with that person. Do we like them? Do we trust them? Do we think they are trying to get by with something? Do we give them the benefit of the doubt because we know they have good intentions?

Every interaction with have with people (and they with us) determines the answers to those questions. With good established relationships, we react one way. With shaky, doubtful relationships, we react another. We react better (less confrontational and adversarial) with people with whom we have good relationships. Therefore, logic would tell us that the more good relationships we have, the less confrontational and adversarial interactions we will have.

One note here about new relationships that aren’t yet established. A good example of this type of new relationship is a buyer or a seller of a business. We see this one often. When a buyer and seller don’t know each other prior to the deal, it can be daunting. They have no prior history to rely on and they don’t know whether to trust each other.

We have seen many situations take a turn for the worst when the first reaction is mistrust and suspicion. While every person is not automatically trustworthy, we have a policy of not assuming the worst until we have evidence of bad intentions.

It’s easy to assume the worst – especially in a stressful situation. However, we have found that most of the time a person is NOT acting in bad faith or with bad intentions. There is a simple explanation of their behavior and once known, we can understand their perspective and react accordingly. By reacting with an open and questioning mind, it increases the chances of saving the deal. By reacting in a suspicious and confrontational manner, it increases the chances of killing the deal.

At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships and how we treat others. As Lee Iococca has said, “Business, after all, is nothing more than a bunch of human relationships.”

As service professionals, our relationships are especially important. To provide our services, we interact with our clients more often. It’s not a simple over-the-counter exchange. We rely on others (our employees and contractors) to provide the services. It is human resources (our expertise, knowledge, skills and time) that we are selling.

We must act by a code of conduct that requires honesty, candor, sincerity, consideration, and not the least of all, gratitude. This “Season of Orange” we make a special attempt at gratitude. We are so very grateful for our amazing clients and all the good that they bring to the world through their services.

To our clients, we appreciate you and we thank you for all that you do. Happy Season of Orange!