By Len Monheit
The Power of Relationships
Whether referred to as the power of relationships, relationship capital, network resources, or merely simply ‘the people you know’, the sum value of your organization’s relationships can sometimes represent one of the largest intangible assets your company possesses, and be a more significant influencer of corporate performance than many factors that really do appear on the company balance sheet.
In all the areas I have worked in during my career, nowhere in business do personal relationships matter so much, and do good solid foundation-dependent networks have such a dramatic potential to influence individual and corporate performance as they do in the natural and nutritional products industry.
I can already hear some of the nay-sayers crying about the sale lost to cents on the kilogram, despite what appears to be a solid interpersonal relationship. I can hear companies and individuals exclaiming over what appear to be the barriers to entry to the industry core. I also see many companies and individuals that naively expect relationship development to be solely the sum total of a few investments in tradeshows, not realizing that there are several other sets of commitments and interactions that mean so much in this and other industries.
Relationships within the industry are obviously critical. When the chips are down and you need a contact, when a critical piece of information or intelligence stands between you and your sales goals, when you need a piece of expert insight to really navigate your organization through murky regulatory waters – these are the times when those with relationship capital and extensive networks rise to the fore. They leverage both the organization’s relationship assets and carefully cultivated networks to accomplish their goals. Ironically, many of those I’ve encountered have this innate ability to cultivate relationships, both for the pure joy of it, as well as for future use, and often do so without conscious thought or effort. These are the individuals who usually best leverage their own and the organization’s personality to maximum effect. I remember observing, in a previous business environment, that if you cannot commit, many of your relationships can only be superficial, and as a result, your impact is seriously limited. These successful individuals described above have committed – and the strong relationships follow – as do results.
Within the industry, there are numerous resource groups that are frequently part of multiple networks. Included among these are obviously the trade associations, as well as the not-for-profit organizations. These groups, with support from industry, fulfill several key roles, including that of connectors of disparate networks. By being part of an industry association or organization, a company and individual can exponentially increase the power of their relationships and networks, as well as significantly increase what I’ll call their ‘intelligence zone’, an area in which they are involved in network building external to their own personal relationships and day to day activities.
Early on in my time in this industry, I became aware of another relationship dynamic - industry’s relationship with regulatory agencies. Around the world, these relationships for the natural health, supplement, and functional foods industries vary, but one thought that strikes me, is that in every jurisdiction, there are models to follow of groups that have successfully developed good relationships with regulators. Whether this means that one must follow the lead (or guidance) of compliance specialists, or whether one must become part of a research organization and use science as a lever to a better environment, a certain amount of industry’s long-term global success will absolutely depend on the strength of its relationships with the regulatory community.
There is another aspect to relationships that bears a moment of consideration, also one I’ve spoken of before. These are the external relationships, those outside our daily and weekly business environment. Successful organizations and individuals have long recognized that these external relationships, often simply because they are not part of the day to day industry environment, have unique value. Leading business professionals have long cultivated peer groups of like-minded but differently focused visionaries, and publicly traded companies, by mandate, have crafted (drafted) Boards of Directors to provide experience and outside expertise and perspectives (and additional relationships and networks) to a business environment.
My own time in this industry has been extremely fortunate and early on, I met several individuals ultimately and obviously destined to become close personal friends, despite geography, competition and workload. Many of these individuals I personally consider to be my own Board of Directors, and on occasion, several of them have been specifically contacted in that role, or to support and help guide NPIcenter in its growth and development.
To me it seems fitting, that as we continue to roll into the new year, that I offer a personal thanks to those that have helped and assisted me and NPIcenter in learning about myself and the industry, and about the opportunity we have to help build a better one. I’d get into a list of individuals, but it would be too long, and inevitably, I’d leave several people out.
Let’s then leave it at: “We value your friendship, the support, the good times, the opportunity and the relationships. You’re the group we met along the journey, and we thank you.”