I’ve posted frequently on the emerging Business Relationship Management role, and how it works as a bridge linking an IT organization with its business customers. I want to use a personal experience to illustrate the nature and power of strong relationship skills. This experience comes out of my role in a condominium association.
The Old Guard
I live in a very pleasant gated community – a mixed development comprising lofts and different styles of town-home. It’s been generally well-run and a delightful place to live since we moved in 8 years ago. There’s a professional management company and a homeowners association with a board of directors – elected from within community. As I said, things seemed to be well-run, public areas were maintained, landscaping, swimming pool and tennis courts tended, and all seemed fine.
The New Leader
Three years ago, a new board chair was elected. Suddenly, he seemed to be everywhere! He approached me and asked if my wife and I would like to help put together a Neighborhood Watch association. I asked what he thought this would involve. He gave me a comprehensive packet of information about the neighborhood watch movement, but more importantly, he gave me the contact details for our first responders – fire, police and medical emergency personnel. He said he’d contacted each of them and was starting to build a relationship with them. He also suggested that one of the first things we could organize would be a First Responders “Appreciation Bar-b-que”. This would be a means for us to get to know our fire, police and emergency medical providers and for them to get to know us. Equally importantly, it would be a great opportunity for neighbors to meet each other and increase the “community” feeling. I was hooked! He’d done the groundwork and had begun to establish the important relationships.
This tone continued throughout the community. New committees were spawned and a new sense of community started to spread. People in the community started to approach him to ask how they could get involved – with the board, on committees, or just in helping the community.
The New Guard
His gregarious nature and relationship skills seemed to invigorate both the board and the community. Each year the annual report became more favorable, delinquencies in homeowner association fees went down (this during our worst recession in living memory!) Collections went up and the quality of maintenance, landscaping and enhancements to the property improved. Each year at board election time, he’s ben re-elected and new people that mirror his relationship skills and action orientation are elected to the board. Like begets like! People started modeling his behavior. A board that had previously operated somewhat “in the shadows” was now out and about in the community.
The new board members reached out to local businesses and negotiated discounts for the community. They got local business to sponsor events – including the annual First Responders party (for which I was now responsible!)
Meanwhile, the board chairman got himself elected to several town committees. He began leveraging those positions to build relationships that benefited the community. For example, he was able to get planning advice and assistance from the town to make improvements to an important creek that flows through our community. When we had a problem with a few “demon speeders” driving too fast through the community, a quick call to the police had them park cars at random times and random places with speed radar – identifying the offenders and letting us know so we could politely remind them of the speed limit and the danger of speeding vehicles to children in the community. The speeding issue went away in about 4 weeks!
The Power of Strong Relationship Skills
A couple of things to take away from this story.
- The board chairman got significantly more done than his predecessors, and with less effort! (Not to take anything away from their achievements – a board position in a condominium associate is hard work and a largely thankless job!) He acted through others by building strong relationships and by creating win-wins.
- The relationships he’s built – within the community, with our first responders and with our local businesses – have benefited all of us. And they become a virtuous cycle. New business that come into our town line up to offer discounts to our community, so they can attract our residents (and get a little publicity on our web site and through our newsletter!)
- His attention to relationships has sensitized the rest of the board and other committee members to the value of relationship building. He’s modeled the behavior he wants to see – and he’s seeing it in return.
He’d make a great Business Relationship Manager!
Photograph courtesy of SalesHQ