Practical Application: Avoiding Mistakes When Building Business Relationships

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Knowing the mistakes to avoid when building business relationships can help you achieve your goals. Read a scenario about someone making just these mistakes and try your skills at analyzing and identifying some of them.

Business Relationships

Like any relationship, a business relationship is built on trust, mutual benefit, and respect. For business leaders trying to build inter-organizational relationships, there some important unwritten rules. Breaking them can mean damaging the relationship, and therefore damaging your reputation, your chances of achieving your goals, or your chances of moving up.

Read the following scenario, then see if you can identify the mistakes made in building business relationships.


David, the CEO of a regional discount supermarket chain XYZ, had been engaging the store's owners about finances for nearly a year. He and the owners did a lot of brainstorming and reflecting, but after exhausting nearly every proposal, there was simply no way the store could remain both independent and profitable. As a result, the owners instructed David to build relationships with potential buyers.

The owners were ready to sell their ownership interest, but they were deeply sensitive to the fact that the uncertain future could have a negative impact on their employees, customers, and vendors. Both David and the owners wanted to have a solid relationship with the buyer before releasing any information that could trouble the employees. To get the best deal for the owners, David also wanted to make sure that the relationships with potential buyers were confidential.

Consistent with this objective, David cultivated several relationships over the next few months. As often happens in business relationships, some got stronger while others faded. After letting these relationships run their course, the field of potential buyers had been narrowed to only two.

As the relationship between the two companies continued to grow, more sensitive details about things like layoffs and store closures were being discussed frequently. A few days after one of these discussions, David arrived for work to a group of very concerned employees who inquired of him about whether their jobs were safe and if stores would be closing.

Since his discussions had been confidential, David was concerned about the source of the information. Eventually, he came across a social media post made by Jason, who represented one of the two finalist companies. He stared at the screen in utter disbelief as he read:


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