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What do you do? If you are alone in your office, you can say it out loud; I won’t tell anyone you are talking to a computer screen or a magazine. But what is your job function? What position do you hold in your company? Who are your direct reports? What departments do you feel you have to have good relationships with? Now the million dollar question: Which departments do you feel you do not need to have good relationships with? (I hope you said, “I need to have good relationships with all departments.”)
I think most of us understand the core group of people – your international relationships – who work for and with us are the most important relationships that we need to hold onto and nurture. We need to be compassionate and helpful and thoughtful with these relationships.
Now, there are plenty of matters that hold us back from developing these relationships. After all, you really only have so much time and energy to give. One roadblock is that there just is not enough time in the day. After all, you’re busy and already spending 40-plus hours a week at the job. A big fear might be that if you spend too much time on developing these relationships, you will no longer have time to do your job.
Another roadblock is fear of being taken advantage of. No one wants to be the only instrument in the band playing. Teamwork is one thing, but everyone on the team still needs to think for him or herself and be able to make good decisions without resorting to waiting for the team leader to always be the one to decide.
So now that we have that sorted out, I have another question for you: How many labor dollars do you lose by not having those relationships be functional, and also prosperous? (I will even insert a moment of silence for you to attempt to calculate the cost.) This is not a number you can come up with, I don’t care how diligent you are. Negative or broken internal relationships are a silent drain on your net profit. This is a cold calculating thief of your bonus dollars. So stop letting it happen.
Look for connections
Start immediately by figuring out your connections with every department in the company. Are you a CEO? Well, then you should probably realize that your relationships and with everyone on a cellular level.
But if you are in purchasing, accounting, warehouse operations or management, all these general departments have vital internal relationships throughout the company. Some relationships, of course, may be closer than others. It all depends on your role.
Think about this way: Let’s say you aren’t in inside/outside sales, but you happen to pick up a call from a customer – one you figure you can “handle.” Now, maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. Offer an answer, but I would still recommend referring the customer to someone in inside/outside sales to verify your answer and seal that relationship.
After you do, go to the person who took the call and let them know how much you appreciate the hard work. Whew, at least you don’t get 50 of those calls a day! If you answered the customer’s question correctly, you saved money, you saved time, you may have even gotten the sale, you made the customer feel great, and took a load off customer service making them look great as well.
Likewise, let’s say you’re in outside sales. Have you ever needed 400 majillion (that is a number I am sure) washers, pieces of steel, or pipe fittings that are custom, special or just plain weird? If you have treated purchasing kindly, used them appropriately (thus, not wasted someone else’s time and company money with pipe dream fantasy orders), don’t be surprised if you get that 400 majillion order by tomorrow.
The Golden Rule
If your experience is not as happy as that, maybe you are difficult to talk to, short when you email, keep your office door closed, and only demand things and bark orders. Please think about it. These people are good at what they do, and they need your help doing their job well.
I could write for a month on the millions of different ways that internal relationships are just as important or maybe even more important than the external relationships, aka, customers and would-be customers.
I will tell you that your customers know if you have good internal relationships or not. They can see it in how your company delivers, how your teams treat them and how willing they are to “bend” when customers need it.
You are a web. You are a team. You are a group. And no one can work without the other. Just remember the Golden Rule, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
If you keep that in mind, that thought process creates a culture of understanding that will expand your business, save labor dollars and create an amazing customer experience inside and out.
Danah Head is an executive advisor for The Distribution Team, a firm that specializes in helping distributors become more profitable through strategic planning and operating efficiencies. Danah has an MBA in Technology Management for Supply Chain and completed work for a Masters in Adult Education and Corporate Training.
While pursuing education, she worked in different purchasing and supply chain roles within the manufacturing industry. With real world experience and technical training help her find the best solutions for warehouse and distribution companies. One way she does this is via a Business Reality 101 simulation game designed to dispel common business misunderstandings for the whole company (https://youtu.be/G9QBGq4MLJc).