I went to my 30 year high school reunion this last weekend. Is it possible that I have been out of high school that long? I admit having mixed emotions about attending this event; a bunch of people in a room that remember younger versions of each other, all telling stories of how great their life is now. The reality of the weekend was that I had a blast. I was able to reunite with some of my original “wolfpack” from the class of 86 and it was incredible. I had not spent time with many of them for a very long time but it was so easy to fall right back into where we used to be. Conversations were effortless and for my small group we laughed until our stomachs hurt. I love them all and am so very grateful for those relationships.
How important are relationships to each of us in our personal lives? How about when it comes to our business? I have been told so many times that our industry is very relationship focused, even more than other industries. Is that true? It sure feels like it given the fact that we are not all that big as a group.
A great relationship can open a door, solve a problem, get you a price increase, keep out the competitors, save an account, GET YOU AN ACCOUNT, deliver inside information, or just be the glue that holds things together. So why is it that some of the big corporate types just don’t get it? I have seen it so many times when management, that really has no freaking clue what they are doing, comes in and moves people around in a territory or on an account because of some big master plan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is never a time to do this but if things are going well…the account is happy…you are profitable…and life in general is pretty dang good, why in the world would you disrupt a solid relationship? How many times have we watched this happen and as a result the bedding producer loses volume and the retailer gets upset. If you are selling at retail and a consumer walks through the door and ask for her favorite sales person “Maggie”, would you deny her that request and give her “Jim” instead?
Flip the coin for a minute. If you are buying anything substantial like…a company, a car, a house, a bedding line, a pillow line etc., does a solid relationship with the seller matter to you? Does that TRUST that exist, that bond you have, impact the intangibles of the deal? Harry Cornell from Leggett and Platt was probably one of the true legends in our industry when it came to building relationships. He developed them with the people he sold to and with the owners of the companies he bought. He told me once that those people and those relationships were the key to his success over time. I think he is right.
I have my “wolfpack” from high school but I have one in the mattress industry as well. Yes it helps me succeed at my job but it also gives my life meaning. The people that I trust and that trust me mean more than any job or financial outcome. My friends and relationships define me really. I am always there for them if needed and they for me, because you have to invest in people to really show them how much you care. That’s when the really good stuff happens.