Written for TakeON! by Leah Fisher of ON-Brand Partners
Should building relationships with our customers and staff start with ‘breaking bread’? This is the way of some cultures – what can we learn?
I recently attended a graduation dinner where the keynote speaker was renowned lawyer and businessperson Mai Chen. She recounted a conversation with a Chinese delegation she was hosting. She had to explain that in New Zealand we often underplay the relationship part of business. Just because we don’t fuss over them and give gifts, doesn’t mean we don’t love them. We expect to go into business dialogue without attending to courtesies they follow. She explained that in China, relationships are key. They take time to entertain and host. They look for common ground, and enjoy the company before getting down to business. In other words – they put a lot of time and effort into building rapport.
I wonder whether our businesses would be more mutually prosperous if we each took more time to build rapport with our partners (suppliers, customers, staff, supporters). When we connect with others on a deeper level, then relationships last longer. Look at our own indigenous populations. Being a good host is the foundation of how they begin and celebrate partnerships. Our ability to build rapport with different cultures becomes imperative in today’s ethnically diverse landscape. Can we learn from others and find a happy medium where good manners and generosity are not seen as negative or ‘junkets’.
Do you take time to build rapport with key partners of your business and your own team? Are you only focused on the business part of the relationship, or do you put yourself into the equation?