Transactions, and Relationships

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I think a lot about why I do, what I do.

It’s not terribly complicated – I mean, it is me, after all.

But, when it comes down to it, I think about my work as two very distinct sets of activities: the relational, and the transactional.

Transactional activities are very easy to identify. They’re governed by a hedonistic, quid pro quo calculus of getting maximum benefit, from direct – and immediate – action. I do a job, and get paid for my efforts; I do this – I get that.

Relational activities are much less well-defined, but are orders of magnitude more important to one’s reputation – and opportunity for long-term success. Relational activities are conducted with the knowledge that there is no guaranteed, immediate benefit to be gained by any particular action, or behavior. Think Baker’s Dozen. Or even, these podcasts.

Now consider this: is it better to think about business as strictly transactional, or relational?

The answer is, well, it depends.

If you only want immediate gratification, transactional thinking is definitely the way to go. Amazon and Ebay are built entirely on this model, as is anyone competing solely on price, or convenience.

But – if you want longer term benefit, and something approaching loyalty, you have to put in time, and effort, to construct lasting relationships; building connection through prolonged, intentional contact. Executing. Doing what you say you will do. Reliably, and repeatedly.

It’s a road much less traveled… but oh so highly prized, when you actually run across a relational company in the wild. Nordstroms is one such brand that immediately comes to my mind, as a company that totally “gets” that is more valuable to perhaps lose a little money through a generous returns policy, than it is to lose a customer over a single transaction.

It’s the relationship that is valuable, not the sale.

So: as you go about your day, be mindful; value your actions not solely by the immediate gain you may achieve, now, but by the potential of what might be achieved through a longer, relational view.

Go, and be you.