Why the secrets to a successful business relationship can be found in a cup of coffee

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
13 May 2014

13 April 2014 | Paul Snell

Successful business relationships are developed over a cup of coffee rather than in the office, according to a leadership expert.

Speaking at the CIPS Middle East Conference in Dubai on Monday, Tommy Weir - a self-confessed "leadership nerd" - told delegates the trust that is core to a successful relationship was more likely to be found by meeting for a coffee than over a boardroom table.

"We think we can build a relationship in a boardroom, office or while at work. Frankly that does not happen. Business relationships are built over a cup of coffee, tea or something else.

"It comes down to the fact we build trust when we are having coffee together. The key ingredient of a successful business relationship is trust."

He drew a distinction between trust in someone's "moral character" - their honesty and integrity - and their "performance character" - do I trust you to do what you said you will do? "Especially [working in procurement], your neck is on the line when you select a provider, you are held accountable for their delivery," Weir pointed out.

He highlighted three elements necessary for developing sustainable business relationships. These were:

Time: "We need to recognise it's not going to happen by email, it's going to happen spending time together - thus, the cup of coffee," said Weir.

Proximity: "It is is nearly impossible to build a relationship from a great distance. We need to get close to the people we want to build relationships with. We need to be beside them. A cup of coffee is time and proximity," he added.

Listening: "Relationships are built much faster when we listen, than when we talk," Weir advised. "If you want a good relationship, take the time to listen to the other party."

Weir said the single piece of advice he would give purchasers in the Middle East would be to have a cup of coffee "because every bit of business in this region is done over a cup of coffee, not in the boardroom. It is done through the relationships built over a cup of coffee."


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