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Commentary: Treat relationships like bank accounts

By: DOLAN MEDIA NEWSWIRES//December 6, 2013//

Commentary: Treat relationships like bank accounts

By: DOLAN MEDIA NEWSWIRES//December 6, 2013//

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By Leo MacLeod
Dolan Media Newswires

It’s not just your checking account that’s limited to going positive or negative: client relationships work much the same.

And like bank accounts, we build a positive balance in three ways: making deposits, limiting withdrawals and giving the account time to accrue interest.

Making deposits

We make deposits when we put other people first and consider how we can solve their problems or make their lives easier. The most powerful people in the world understand this and give more than they receive.

In business relationships, it’s most obvious in providing a lead for a project. But there are so many creative ways to make deposits: pick up lunch; don’t charge for additional work; finish a project ahead of schedule; connect people with others they want to know; send a book someone would like; connect parents with applicable ideas or resources; invite people to dinner; bring pastries to a meeting; send a letter of reference; treat someone to a round of golf.

The key is to understand what’s important to people – both professionally and personally. I had a client who was struggling with a teenage daughter acting out. I called a therapist friend who found my client someone who specialized in adolescents.

Take time to listen to clients. Be curious about their lives and challenges. Make notes and keep them in mind.

Limiting withdrawals

A former neighbor had a bad habit of always asking me for favors without any sense that there’s a limit to generosity: Could he borrow my drill? Could he park his boat in my driveway? Could I drive him to the airport? Did I have any sugar? Did I have any nutmeg?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a helpful guy by nature, but my neighbor was all about asking for favors and taking withdrawals from our relationship account.
After a while, I wanted to draw the blinds and not answer the door.

Think about your relationships – both personal and professional. When was the last time you did something nice or helpful? If you take an evaluation and find that you exceeded the budget for a project, your subcontractor didn’t finish the flooring, you didn’t pay someone on time, or you’re always presenting problems and not solutions, then you’re most likely in a deficit position with your relationship.

Be mindful about how much you are asking for favors versus how much you are reciprocating.

Giving it time

Bank accounts grow over time and so do relationships. Our strongest relationships are those into which we have consistently made deposits and limited withdrawals over time. The longer that a relationship has existed, the more equity there is.

Think of it this way: You meet someone new at a DJC event and you follow up by connecting the person with an architect you know. The relationship account is too new to really make a withdrawal, such as asking to be included in bidding on a project.

We are so eager to cash in on relationships that personally benefit us that we sometimes don’t allow enough time for the account balance to grow.
Otherwise, the initial deposit appears as a cheap ploy to make an immediate withdrawal. We are naturally attuned to who owes us and who doesn’t.

I have found that our overall net worth in the industry revolves around how much we serve other people by making deposits rather than serving ourselves and taking withdrawals.

People will want to take your calls and meet with you if you’re perceived as someone who looks to fill their relationship accounts. You will both win if you think of relationships as investments that reap dividends over time.

Leo MacLeod is a new business coach and a strategic consultant. Contact him at [email protected].

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