All great work is built on the foundation of great relationships. As suppliers of services, balanced and beneficial relationships are not without their challenges.

This was the topic of Grey Matter Recruitment's Relationship Diaries webinar this morning where experts from both sides of the client/supplier relationship discussed how to build great relationships.

Here are my key takeaways:

Should suppliers adopt a subservient position in their relationships?

No, says Annabel Dunstan, Founder & CEO at Question & Retain. Annabel argued that particularly early in a commercial relationship there is a tendency toward fawning but suppliers should use this honeymoon period to get to know the business, challenge areas of doubt and demonstrate the value that led to the relationship being agreed on in the first place.

Should "chemistry" be a consideration of commercial relationships? 

Absolutely, says Kate McFerran, Director of Communications at LNER. During lockdown, the rail company faced an unusual challenge of recommending people not to use their services. Patience and understanding of suppliers during that process was so essential to a business model facing difficulty.

Are relationships an art or a science?

Both, says Andy West, good friend of Passle and Chief Development Officer at Hotwire. Building relationships personally is an art, with listening, checking in and asking for feedback all skills critical for suppliers to develop as professionals. Taking a genuine and active interest in clients is essential to avoiding the slow decline of relationships due to undiscovered issues. 

On the other side of the coin is the science, says Andy. There is definitely scope for processes of account review and planning, with the folks over at Hotwire regularly planning and reviewing how well they are delivering and connecting to their key accounts.

How closely should suppliers understand their client's businesses?

Suppliers should have a curiosity for their clients and likewise, suppliers should make an effort to understand their suppliers, says Malik Akhtar, VP of procurement at Bayer.

Some people are motivated by fame, others by revenue or a hundered other motivations. It is in the best interests of both suppliers and clients to make sure that motivations and goals align. This is difficult to communicate in a brief document, says Malik, so a good understanding of the business environment on both sides should be a priority.