The Power and Importance of Relationships

By Joe Sweeney

Let’s connect a few dots, shall we?

This issue of Ingram’s contains two seemingly disparate reports: One on the state of the region’s banking system, with our Banking Industry Outlook assembly coverage; one on high-achieving Millennials in this region, with our 20 in Their Twenties awards and that assembly coverage.

The two topics intersected briefly at the banking assembly when participants addressed strategies for attracting, retaining and, importantly, motivating their most promising young workers. Academy Bank’s chief people officer, Teresa Ascensio, noted how management there had made a strategic move to push authority down the ranks. That, she said, gave younger workers the opportunity to achieve the kinds of outcomes and goals they say are so important for their career satisfaction.

She was speaking for Academy, but could she have been speaking not just for other banks, but other HR professionals in many different sectors. We hear from all of them year-round about their strategies for holding onto talent in a historically tight labor market.

So here’s a real-world example that challenges the shared-authority narrative: I’m at a bank over the past week (for the sake of preserving relationships, the bank and people involved will be known but to God). I’m trying to not only confirm the validity of a check from someone whose character, I learned first hand, was somewhat suspect, but also to convert a company check into a Cashier’s Check. So I went to the bank to inquire about whether the payment would, indeed, fund.

Mind you, I do not presently have an account or loan at that bank; the check-writer did. But the manager in charge said he
couldn’t convert the check—quoting here—as I didn’t have “a relationship with the bank.” The sticking point came when I re-
fused to be finger printed. That’s demoralizing, regardless of their policy.

Funny he would bring up that I did not have a relationship. My history with the organization, and through the coverage of the banking industry, has connected us with his parent company’s CEO and several of the bank’s regional execs for many years. We previously had mortgages financed through the bank, as well as accounts and loans—all eventually closed upon being paid in full.

We’re far from a large client but the point is that we’ve had a banking relationship there for three decades and I consider several folks from this bank as good friends. But, I didn’t have a current account with the bank and apparently not much influence over the teller.

After verifying my identity and that of my company and a series of calls leveraging my relationship history, the matter eventually was resolved. But this took several hours. This got me thinking about another point raised during the banking assembly’s deliberations. To a man or woman, each person at that table confirmed that banking is, quoting again, “a relationship business.”

Perhaps that applies to relationships with corporate clients with multimillion-dollar assets under the bank’s control.

This may all sound like a one-off to many, but it’s not. It’s connected to something deeper and more profound, something taking place under our feet. Over the next five years, half the nation’s medium and small businesses will be sold as Boomers rush to retirement. Within a decade, that rises to 2/3 of US businesses, perhaps more.

Every one of those transactions puts in jeopardy the quality of that company’s relationships with its customers and vendors. Every such sale will create a mesh point for either solidifying an existing relationship, or eroding one, possibly for good.

Almost no business owner with any appreciable number of people working for him is managing every relationship by himself or herself. What I learned from that banking encounter, from the banking assembly and from the Millennials featured in 20 in Their Twenties is that more companies need to be moving—now—to improve not just the relationship-building skills of their workers, but their relationship-maintenance skills to retain business.

It’s not like nobody will be watching, least of all your competitors who will try to capitalize on a client’s dissatisfaction to peel away a piece of your business. This is going to change the calculus both for someone trying to get his business in shape to secure the highest multiple upon sale, and for the buyer who wants to ensure that a new owner won’t need to re-forge every business connection from scratch.

Therein lies the power of relationships. So ask yourself: Just how strong are your business relationships? 

About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher

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