Dicky Fox offered “The key to this business is personal relationships” to his charge, Jerry Maguire.  It had a profound impact on the energetic sports agent — he banked his entire career on that advice and it paid off.

I recently connected two people, an acquaintance (Mr. X) looking for some help and a good friend (Mr. Y) with specific expertise in a number of key areas in social media, on a business opportunity.  I made the introductions and let them work out the rest of the details.

A few weeks later I received a phone call from Mr. Y to report a complication in the business relationship.  During the explanation it became clear to me that X and Y were doomed because of one key problem: suspicion.  Mr. Y had become suspicious of Mr. X because of the way their email correspondence had evolved and because of the difference in professional backgrounds.  The key reason for Y’s call to me, though, was that Y was concerned that this complication would have a cascading effect and sour my relationship with X.  I provided an assurance that there would be no impact since the operative word in my relationship with Mr. X. was ‘acquaintance’ — nothing more.

In the days that followed, I received a trickle of forwarded email messages which began with a polite note from Y to X informing X that Y was terminating the business relationship.

An amazing thing happened.  Mr. X replied and clarified what turned out to be a miscommunication and challenged the willingness to terminate the business relationship.  His challenge was rooted in three key arguments:

  • all players in the relationship appear to be straightforward and honest people
  • miscommunication implies bi-directional collapse of communication
  • life is too short to leave open misunderstandings and miscommunication

Having addressed the matters head-on, it appears that X and Y are now enjoying a stronger business relationship.  More importantly, I would argue that a new level of trust and communication has been established which would likely assure a long term business relationship.

So, I propose these three important pillars in support of Dicky Fox’ advice to Jerry Maguire

  • Communicate clearly (e.g. well defined thoughts without the use of a thesaurus)
  • Ask questions when necessary (e.g. Did I explain myself well?  Can you please clarify…for me?)
  • Email is one of the worst communications tools available (“Show me the money” wouldn’t have worked in text) so don’t be afraid to use the phone once in a while — or even meet in person

I’m glad we had this talk.