Last week was my first week going solo.
Having left my job in December, I have started 2019 as my own boss, with my own aspirations and the exciting challenge of running my own business.
Two things happened last week that really struck me.
Firstly, I was in contact with two industry peers (former customers) with whom I’d had, in previous jobs, a bit of a tenuous time.
It happens in Service sometimes, especially when there are issues or escalations and tensions run high. No one calls the service team for a chat. No one calls the service team with good news.
And yet despite the historic friction, these peers were the first to call me on hearing that I was starting my own business. We discussed the market, what my plans were and caught up on their recent history and plans for 2019. The exchanges were enthusiastic and friendly, with offers of support should I need it.
And both contacts commented on our working history.
Both wanted to ensure that any bad feelings generated from our early dealings were in the past. Which, of course, they were.
People in a professional capacity operate in the best interest of their company. There are processes and procedures to work to, and of course commercial relationships to navigate. What I reassured both was that there was never anything personal about our prior exchanges and as far as I am aware no lasting damage to either company based on those.
But it reminded me that often some of the strongest working relationships are forged in the face of adversity. Overcoming issues and problems jointly builds trust. Relationships can progress from there to develop loyalty, whether for the company you represent or for you as an individual.
If we’re talking about the power and opportunities that arise through Service (and I will be!), this has to be a key one.
The relationships that I now enjoy, many of which stemmed from less than ideal circumstances (standard in Service) are robust, candid and lasting.
Still, while I was surprised to hear from these contacts, I was very pleased to have done and our conversations have paved the way for future contact and collaboration.
The second thing that struck me last week was slightly more humbling.
Turning up for a business meeting I enjoyed the usual office greet. Sign in, would you like a cup of tea, let me show you to the meeting room. Having always been in customer facing roles (and largely out on the road with partners and customers), this wasn’t at all new.
What was new was that for the first time, I wasn’t there as a representative of a huge, global company. I was there as myself, representing myself, meeting with the owner of the company in no-one else’s capacity. Just me.
And being nothing else but just me, I enjoyed all the civilities, respect, warm greetings and a valuable hour of business time.
I’ve known about relationships – “not what you know, who you know” – and all the other adages., but I continue to be surprised by the power of a solid working connection. I’m starting to learn that it can be the difference between banging on the door, having a foot in the door and sitting drinking tea in the MDs office where the door’s always open for you.