Good Business Relationships


There is a lot of advice on how to build good business relationships with other people (colleagues, customers, hired specialists). They advise building trust, respect, open communications, and so on. This is all very useful (especially books like “The Speed of Trust”), but I haven’t seen a model of internals of any business interactions yet. It is much more pleasant to know how a thing works inside than to know the instructions for using it. Therefore, I will try to describe what we have at the moment.

One-time exchange

The simplest and most popular interaction option is a one-time exchange. The specialist changed the lock on your door, you pay, you shook hands and he leaves. You order food in a restaurant, the waiter brings it, you pay the bill and you leave. Typically, the medium of exchange in such relationships is money. It’s difficult to call such relationships good because they are not long-term. The important thing here is how to end such a relationship beautifully. For example, you can leave a tip.

Complex one-time exchange

A more interesting option is when the interaction is extended over time. Let’s start with a simple case where one party makes a one-time investment, and the other brings something in return over a long period of time. For example, when you rent an apartment, the owner of the apartment provides you with what you need once, and you periodically provide him with compensation.

It makes sense to keep such relationships good. On the one hand, it is easier to maintain good relationships like this, because there are many more exchange tools. This is not only money, but also any other means of motivation. You can make repairs, you can emotionally support a person. On the other hand, such relationships are more difficult to maintain because for at least one of the parties they are an obligation that this party wants to get rid of as quickly as possible.

Periodic exchanges

The next option is when you conduct periodic exchanges. The most important thing here is to stabilize these relationships. As a rule, if only one party needs something in a relationship, the relationship cannot be stable (i.e. good).

Even if in theory neither party needs anything from the other, in practice it can result in an unstable relationship. For example, you go door to door and deliver free tickets to a concert. For the first time, they will be happy to open the doors and talk to you. They’ll even take your tickets. Formally, you don’t need anything in return, and the residents of the houses don’t need anything from you either. The second time they will think about whether to open it. The third time they would rather not open it than open it. And this despite the fact that you bring useful things to people.

Therefore, it makes sense to build relationships so that you can periodically help each other with something. In the same way that athletes like pair dancers help each other.

This applies to teams as well. Let’s say a company has two product teams. Your team needs a new feature in another product. In exchange for the feature you make, you can:

  1. Mirror a feature that is useful for another team in your product… and agree on the following joint plans.
  2. Help the other team find new users or otherwise help with their product metrics… and agree that you will promote each other.
  3. Take some people from another team for training into your own… and agree on the conditions for completing the training.
  4. … and a million more ethical and motivating options to move your relationship forward.

The most interesting thing here is that you can find your own rhythm for different relationships. There is no need to lump everyone with the same brush; different people like different rhythms.

The main thing in trying to help each other is not to slip into codependent relationships. This is when you cannot live without each other’s services. This type of relationship is very problematic because you can only get out of it through great pain.

The doors

In a heated situation, it helps to remember about the doors. The point is that life opens many doors for us. Some doors are popular, some not so much. You can push everyone aside and walk through the doors like an ill-mannered monster, or you can walk through like a gentleman. We have the power to make the right choice. In the long run, it is very foolish to fight for the opportunity to enter first. It’s better when one gentleman shows the courtesy and holds the door, the second makes a nice joke, and the third comes in. In the end, everyone will have a good time because they understand that life is not a zero-sum game.


To summarize, I would like to say two thoughts:

  1. Key turning points in a relationship are the moments when one party needs something from the other. The quantity and quality of such moments must be closely monitored.
  2. For good people, you need to try to turn all the “I need something” moments into “I am offering a mutually beneficial long-term exchange.” There are always options, you just need to think about it.