It’s All About Relationships

It’s All About Relationships

From Arlene | Posted by - October 18, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Many people view business as a dog-eat-dog, destroy-before-you're-destroyed enterprise. But to me, business has always been about relationships, and relationships--whether personal or business-related--tend to collapse when you stab people in the back, play head games, take but don't give, lie, cheat or exploit the other person. As a result, my mantra as an entrepreneur has always been to treat those with whom I'm engaged in a professional relationship pretty much the same way I would treat them if we had a personal relationship. It's a long life, and I've lived enough of it to know there are consequences to the choices we make and eventually those consequences catch up with us.

I'm also a big believer in karma. I don't mean that in a Pollyanna sense. I simply mean that when I have shown empathy to others and treated them with honesty and respect, they've tended to return the favour. And since people constitute the core capital of my business--of any business--the benefits of having people I can trust on my side are incalculable.

Having said that, l want to stress that I don't treat people with compassion and respect because my eye is on the bottom line. I treat them that way because that is how I was raised, and it's who I am. Also, I don't think honesty is something you can fake.

I've seen some individuals who cultivate the performance of sincerity. I think of their behaviour as a faux friendliness developed and practiced over time to ingratiate themselves with others. Often, I have the feeling that these people have been performing sincerity for so long that they've come to believe they actually are sincere. The Philip Seymour Hoffman character in The Master is a larger-than-life version of the sort of person I mean. On the outside, he seems affable and charming, but something about him sets off alarm bells. At some level, you know he's a fake.

I believe that people are pretty smart. And so, in business and in life, I always start from that premise. People know when someone has an ulterior motive. They know when they're being played.

But since I'm advocating honesty here…in truth, there's another reason I play by the book. I'm a terrible actress! And it's not in my nature to trick people into doing things I know they'll regret later, not least because I deeply dislike conflict. I can't handle the stress of wondering when people will figure out they've been had, when the axe is going to fall. And they will find out. That I know.

Maybe you began reading this post thinking I was going to give you a few insights into my business philosophy. Instead, I wound up talking to you about the bedrock principles I rely on to navigate life. That's because to me, they're one and the same.

How about you? Do you think my business philosophy is the best way to go in the long run, or do you think it's hopelessly naïve? Let us know…

Tags: arlene dickinson, dickinson, blog, relationships, business, honesty, respect

Luke Rowan
October 23, 2012 at 1:27 am
I believe your philosophy is great. When you are being true and honest with yourself about your intensions it is always the right path. It takes so much more energy to put on an act and trick people or treat them poorly then it does to be caring, honest and professional.
Ralf Chlipalski
October 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Whoa, tough question. For me, beauty and the ability to shmooze trumps talent everytime. The fake, the brown-nosers, the yes men who realize they can least afford not being one all seem to make it. There was a line in "Horrible Bosses", "My grandma who didn't take sh!t from anyone came to this country with $20 and died with $2000, why, because she didn't take sh!t from anyone." Once you make it past this stage and it hasn't turned your insides black, then you can afford your light to shine through. After thousands of years of religious and philosophical thought, I think the only morality is ultimately selfishness. Everything else is just dressing it up to make it look like something else.

Haley Evans
October 23, 2012 at 5:27 pm

SO true! This is the best philosophy for both business and personal life. I always like the saying "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" and I apply that in my business, Even with my direct competition, I am very friendly and pleasant - you never know when you might need their help! It never helps to be mean and sneaky with people, especially with business relationships. It all relates back to your brand as well, no one wants to be known as the cheater! 

Kim Page Gluckie
October 23, 2012 at 11:59 pm

I'm still new enough in business to believe it. And I hope I never change. I've been called naive for playing nice, and being hurt when I play nice and it doesn't work out. But when I die, I want to know the relationships mattered most and the business thrived with the people that mattered most as a result of it. Fortunately, I have a big community with amazing women entrepreneurs in it that keeps growing and yes -- about 200 actual relationships into my entrepreneurial career I'm so on board with your thinking! What a beautiful way to be.

Will Mansour
October 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I agree! Also, never burn a bridge. My database of people in my circle is not a mailing list so to speak, it is a list of relationships. In doing this I was able to eliminate the dead weight from my list and generate a core that allows me to focus and generate additional business through referrals. This list also relates well to my real estate business and have proven to be very key in the success I have had in a short amount of time.

Kelly Prince-Bruce
October 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm


In my primary profession I complete quality control inspections for a commercial cleaning company in and around the GTA, part time I am a consultant for a direct sales company - I remind people that you spend more time with work than you do at home - calculate travel and working hours minus sleeping hours – what is left is home hours. The big picture is the majority of your life you spend with relationships outside of the home. I see my entire client list as an extended family in one way or another - we all have bad days - but overall we take on their problems and concerns as our own, and work to make things easier; that being said - all my relationships with business are personal – to be successful with business comes understanding.

To be successful in life you have to relate – even if it is just with being sympathetic.

Steve Kubien
October 31, 2012 at 2:46 am
The way I see it, at the end of the day I need to be able to look my kids in the eye (and myself in the mirror) and say, "I did the right thing". That is not the same thing as "I did the right thing because this is business and in business you have to xyz...".

Yup, sounds like navigating life to me.
Richard Cleary
October 26, 2013 at 3:50 pm
I believe that your philosophy around relationships is great and I couldn't agree more. People are smart and will eventually see through the fake. Genuine trust and integrity is the pillar that will support and help grow your business through healthy and open relationships. Anything less is unacceptable.
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