To have and to hold?

Is there such a thing as the perfect client/supplier relationship? Sequel’s Jason Dowty shares our top tips for professional harmony

 The perfect match – in life and in business, is hard to find.

While the perils of modern dating may be more fraught with pitfalls than your typical client/supplier relationship, finding a connection that lasts can be equally illusive.

So what’s the trick of finding a partnership that’s perfect for you and, once chosen, how can both parties make sure it’s for keeps? Here are some quick tips to get you started.

Does the face fit?

As anyone who has tried online dating will tell you, sometimes the profile doesn’t match the reality. In fact, in an Opinion Matters survey of 1,000 people, over 53 per cent of US people admitted to being economical with the truth with their online descriptions.

That’s why it’s important to be honest with each other from day one. Whether you’re discussing services, budgets or creativity, don’t over promise and always set expectations that you can meet or – even better – exceed.

Like all good relationships, first impressions of a working partnership are important and lay the foundations of something that lasts. But don’t get complacent and rely on those first early successes – you need to regularly surprise and delight.

Opposites attract?

Driven by the matchmaking algorithms of online dating, people are increasingly looking for the perfect match via a detailed tick-box exercise, usually aimed at finding someone similar to them.

Likewise, when we’re setting up a new working partnership, can we sometimes be guilty of looking for the impossible? Do we search for someone who thinks exactly the same way?

Is there an argument that successful long-term relationships are built on partners that, to use a Valentine’s-appropriate Jerry Maguire reference, ‘complete’ each other?

The evidence is compelling. Some of the most legendary partnerships of all time have been forged between people who are about as different as can be.

So, for agencies, it’s important to appreciate that, sometimes, clients may not want or expect us to be just like them. In fact, often they are seeking a partner because they want an unbiased take from someone with a fresh, outside perspective.

Putting in the hard yards

Even if partners are perfectly matched, lasting relationships won’t pass the test of time without dedication, effort… and a bit of patience.

Hollywood might create an image of effortless romance, but client/supplier relationships can suffer just as much from disagreements, complacency or lack of spark as real-life relationships.

That’s why it’s so important to do everything you can to stop a relationship going stale. So don’t take your partnership for granted and be proactive. The little things make a difference and that starts with maintaining good communication, showing consideration, appreciation and striving to keep on surprising each other with fresh ideas for your work.

Four better, four worse

Keep your promises, build trust and always appreciate how easy it is to shatter it. If times get tough, remember to include each other and communicate.

According to marriage expert John Gottman, the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’ when it comes to relationships are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

While Gottman sees these as the marks of relationship ‘disasters’, the habits embodied by his relationship ‘masters’ are: respect, gratitude, friendship and noticing what’s going right.

Although these may not translate perfectly to client/supplier relationships, they do give food for thought. Sure, sometimes the grass really is actually greener on the other side, but remember to take the time to ask why it’s greener and try to recreate it on your side of the fence.

So be prepared to give your client/supplier relationship some TLC from time to time. You might find your perfect match is closer than you think.