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In business, should you date or get married?


Your first and ongoing responsibility as a business owner is to develop an effective business model.

This means creating, building and maintaining a long term relationship between buyer and seller. Ideally, that would also mean having multiple revenue streams from multiple product lines.

It’s sad, but many businesses merely “date” their customers. By this I mean that they’re in a short term relationship that is transactional in nature with no penalty for termination. It can end for many reasons or no reason at all.

Either party just walks away. There’s no loyalty and no real relationship. No harm, no foul.

More successful businesses “marry” their clients. By taking the leap to marriage, the customer becomes a client.

There is a big difference between the two ways of thinking about a business relationship. When the business and a client are married, both gain over the long term.

The depth of the relationship is about more than just money changing hands, or the frequency and volume of purchases. Over time, trust is established and it grows, deepening as both partners in the relationship look out for the other.

To demonstrate this concept, let me use a relatable example.

Let me share a true story about how two people in consumer service industries approach their business. One dates and the other marries clients.

A transactional mortgage broker is one who believes that you, the customer, will only make a single purchase and as a result, once that transaction is done, you’ll never need them again.

This type of broker searches for the best deal, but not necessarily the best deal for their customer.

I speak from personal experience; as a first time home buyer, I fell for this. The broker said I got a great deal. After I signed the loan documents, I found out I no longer had that great deal.

The broker got the great deal.

At that time it was a legal and acceptable practice for mortgage lenders to offer and provide brokers financial and other incentives. The broker had the dating mindset, and saw an opportunity to make additional money quickly, regardless of the fact that the product being purchased was not what I wanted.

This broker was interested in closing the deal as quickly as possible, so that she could move on to her next … customer.

We closed, got the keys to the house, along with a home loan with terms we didn’t want. We never heard from the mortgage broker again. Not a word.

Our realtor was quite different. He worked side by side with us from searching for the right home to the closing and beyond.

He believed in delayed gratification, knowing that our situation was going to make for a longer escrow. He was patient and understanding.

The realtor doesn’t call us when he wants to sell us something. He reaches out to us several times a year, checking in on how we are, asking if he can help us find quality service providers for maintaining our house, letting us know what the comps are in the neighborhood.

Each year, on the anniversary of our closing, he sends us a nice handwritten note telling us how many years we’ve been homeowners and making sure we know he is available to us; all we need to do is call.

This kind of person is a trusted advisor, one you would refer without hesitation to others; one you would and do work with yourself on a long-term basis.

The lessons to be shared from this experience are many. My question: what type of relationship best suits your need?

Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.


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