The Partnership Perspective

Growing up, it seemed like my father was always working. A notion that I am sure will be echoed by my children someday. When I was very little, he would travel all around Eastern Washington, but even when he was home, he always seemed to be working late or in the office on weekends. At the time I didn’t know what all this meant, why he was always working. I was just a kid after-all.

As I got older, my friends and I would compare what our parents did for a living. “My Dad is the vice president of a bank,” I would proudly announce.

The day he was promoted, my mom made a banner to congratulate him, she hung it on the house for him to see when he got home. That is one of my favorite memories. I didn’t understand the feeling at the time, but I was so proud of him. It truly takes the entire family’s support to foster success. So, what did he do as vice president of a bank? I didn’t have a damn clue, I just knew it sounded important, and I wanted to work hard just like him.

In Washington, you can work agriculture at the age of fourteen. Since my neighbor just happened to own an orchard in Greenbluff, when I was old enough, I jumped at the chance to grow up. Once I started working, I had a new interest in finding out what it was my father was doing at work all this time.

He taught me “Vice President of Bank” isn’t a job. It’s a title, or a status, a larger pension, it’s a better parking spot. His actual vocation, was Commercial Loan Officer. His job was to be the liaison between the bank and his clients for loans. In short, he was the path for business owners to start or grow their businesses.

Around my mid-teens, I learned your title doesn’t always describe what you actually do at work. I had discovered what my father literally did for a living. This new perspective would influence the way I felt about working in a way that I wouldn’t realize for almost twenty years.

So, what did he do? He built and fostered relational partnerships. It was that simple, his job was to cultivate a mutuality beneficial partnership with a client. He didn’t just loan money, he genuinely cared for these people, and they knew it, they cared for him too. They needed him and he needed them. Friendships were made that are still strong today.

As I grew older, I started my career in the automotive industry and wore many hats. As I moved from place to place, and as my responsibilities grew, I would always put my customers above myself. That was my way of trying to show them that I cared, that I was trying to build a relationship with them. Everyone knows the cliché, business is really all about relationships, so I figured this was the obvious pathway to success. I would learn of my customer’s families and they would learn of mine. This is what it must have been like for my Dad, I thought.

Later, I started to notice a cyclical pattern with my customers, when it was time for them to sell the car, they would move on to another brand and never return. I was surprised to find out, that I would move on too. In fact, they were easily replaced with the next customer, the next “relationship”. Pretty shallow stuff.

It wasn’t until I moved into management that I realized what a partnership was, and this wasn’t with my employees, it was with my vendors. While I had a great team I worked with, and an unbelievable couple guys helping me, this was a different partnership. I loved working with VW, not because of the cars, or the customers, but because of the representatives that worked with me.

There was a small handful of people that I considered partners. My success propelled theirs and their success pushed mine. We were in it together. To be honest it is these guys, that inspired me to leave retail so I could be able to support and help other managers. With this inspiration in mind, I made the move to my new career.

I can tell you, to my surprise, not everyone wants a mutually beneficial partnership in their business. Not everyone wants to work together, even though you are in it together, sometimes a person is ok with bringing you both down. That is a hard pill to swallow.

This brings me to last week.

Recently, with the growth of my company, we made a necessary change to our assigned regions. Instead of traveling the Northern Central United States, I will be confined to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Not the worst news to get in December with winter coming up. Since I was going to be rezoned, my schedule was changed to head up North one last time to visit with my accounts. There is one particular account I lost, that I was fortunate enough to have a real partnership with, and I will tell you, they will be missed.

I finally, after almost twenty years, understood what it was my father was doing all this time. We were truly in it together, I worked hard for him, and he tried to excel his business for me. We were partners in each other’s success. Although I know we will remain in contact, I am sad to move on from working with him; but I am excited to build another partnership.

Have you ever stopped to think about what you are doing every day? It is more than likely that you are half of a partnership yourself. If you are lucky enough to be, thank that other person for being in it with you. Take a moment this week and really look around, who are you influencing, who are you pushing, and who is pushing you?