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Relationship bonding: Sometimes, it’s the little things that count

Do you thank clients for new business? Do you try to get a quick understanding of your clients’ new businesses “off the clock?” Do you thank people for referring business to you? Do you acknowledge key events in your client’s business and personal lives? Do you just pick up the phone, or send an e-mail to say, “How are you doing today?” Do you take the time to do the little things that make a long-lasting, relationship-bonding impact?

My mom, very unexpectedly, passed away two weeks ago. My world stopped because I had just spoken to her and found her to sound in good health. My brother and I know now that she was hiding the fact she was ill from us, but even had we known, it still would have been a huge shock. She was a boisterous, affable, friendly, humorous, kind, generous, fun-loving, and full-of-life woman who had to go to work at the age of 16 to support her own mom and dad.

Even tougher was the fact that she had to work when she got married and had us kids. She kept the house clean and organized and took my brother and me to most of our extracurricular activities. I went to ballet, piano lessons, figure skating lessons, badminton, tennis, swimming. You name it — we did it. Mom shouldered most of the commuting, meal-making, housekeeping — and worked at Bank of Montreal for about 35 years.

Yet she always took the time to do the little things for family, friends, work colleagues, and clients. She wrote thank-you letters. She read the obituaries and called people to offer condolences and assistance. She kept in touch with people from Winnipeg, Calgary, Montreal, Kitchener, St. Catharines, and Hamilton. She worried about my brother and me.

Mom would listen to people when they spoke to her — really listen — what we call “active listening’” now. She remembered birthdays, anniversaries, important events, and she would write letters, send cards, or just pick up the phone and call. There wasn’t a selfish, dishonest bone in her body. I have never encountered anyone who didn’t like her.

Do you make the time to consider others?

I don’t know about you, but I seem to charge through life, feeling that I have a ton of things to deliver all of the time. My e-mail pings every second and I am behind by about 345 e-mails at this moment. Even though I would like to write notes to people, pick up the phone, read more family and friend Facebook entries, Gmail, Hotmail, volunteering/board messages, and business-relationship LinkedIn posts, I just don’t have the time. Or do I?

We are so focused on lean, efficient, budget-conscious, immediately quantifiable results that the small touches, the attention to detail, the time taken out of your day for another person that has huge impact is lost. But is it really?

Actually, it took my mom’s passing to make me realize that I don’t make the time. Do you?

I have a lot of friends, family, and business colleagues (past and present) who are all busy people, too. But you know what? Some of the most successful, busiest people I know took the time to give me a call, buy a card, and write a note, send me a Facebook or LinkedIn message, or an e-mail to send their sympathies and offer any assistance.

There are people that I haven’t heard from for 20 years who took the time to find me and reach out. I really appreciate all of the effort and interactions. It has kept me focused on moving forward. I deeply and sincerely appreciate, thank, and will remember all of you who took the time and made the effort.

How are you bonding with your clients?

Developing and retaining relationships takes thought and time. What do you do to thank your new clients for awarding you and your firm with their business? Do you send a card of thanks? Does your managing partner or practice group leader give them a call? Do you spend time at their place of work and get to know them better “off the clock?” Are you really helping your clients and developing a meaningful relationship?

A meaningful, long-lasting, authentic relationship is mutually rewarding — sometimes, not in the near-term but almost always in the long-term. Sometimes, it takes one party to make the first move, to step back, to be thoughtful and considerate. Making people feel good, important, and worthy pays it forward and develops strong bonds and wonderful relationships.

In loving memory of Elsie Hughes

I grew up with the best role model. I dedicate this month’s column to my mom who has taught me one last lesson: Be kind and considerate to others and they will be kind and considerate to you – in both your personal and professional relationships.

  • Business Development - ContactNet BDP

    Richard Hermann
    Certainly condolences on your loss; but thank you for sharing your story of your mom's understanding of how valuable the little things are to making people know how valuable and appreciated they are. It doesn't take much, but it's always worth!