By: Ed Fuller
Founder and President of Laguna Strategic Advisors
In a previous article I discussed how having good personal business relationships can often save the day when something goes awry.
But, successful relationships don’t just happen over night; they are two-way affairs. Partners and associates must believe in the honesty and good faith of their leaders, and vice versa. When and how trust develops between business partners or between leaders and the people they lead depends on previous experiences, the personalities involved and the specific situation. By rights, the degree of trust should correspond with actual performance, but life is more complicated than that. Our individual quirks, feelings and prejudices often come into play.
Maintaining strong ties can be as simple as making a quick stop to pay respects when you’re in town. Here’s what I mean. A problem at one of our Thai hotels a few years ago required me to make several quick trips to visit the owner over the span of several months. As I should have expected, two other Bangkok owners heard about my visits and e-mailed to complain that I hadn’t dropped by “to spend some time with us.” They were looking for what I call a relationship visit.
The disgruntled Thai owners were reminding me of the first rule of relationship maintenance – everyone needs face time. Notes and phone calls can buy you time, but they are only stopgap measures. To do the job right, you must meet in person, face-to-face. Nothing less will do. You’ll find the payback is well worth the trouble.
Reassurance was what our two Bangkok owners were looking for when they raised their complaint. Their confidence somewhat shaken because Marriott was opening new hotels in their city, they needed to hear that their properties would not be pushed to the sidelines. While our Asia executives made special trips to see them, the owners wouldn’t feel completely relieved until I spoke to them directly – face-to-face.
On my next trip to Bangkok, I arranged to have dinner and a lunch with each of the owners separately. As is our custom, the conversation during the meal was relaxed, friendly and devoid of business issues. Later, when we got around to business, I let them know that I understood their anxiety. But I also reminded them that Marriott manages multiple properties in major cities all around the world. For example, in the Atlanta area alone, Marriott operates more than 100 hotels under various Marriott brands. Finally, I pledged to continue marshaling our superior resources in support of their particular properties.
Since that minor rift, our well-tended relationship garden has continued to produce a cornucopia of mutual benefits.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned about building relationships: