Trust is extremely important in life science business relationships (and business relationships in general). I don’t have to ask you to take my word for it, though. According to the sentiment of more than 80 life science manufacturers and distributors who took our 2011 life science distribution survey, trust is the most important factor in distribution relationships according to distributors, and the second most important factor according to manufacturers. It’s not difficult to imagine that trust would be attributed similar importance in other types of business partnerships as well. Despite this, so many companies and individuals approach business relationships with distrust.
Companies often lack an appreciation for the fact that in order to build trust you need to give trust, and giving trust involves assuming some business risk. Even some that understand this still approach partnerships with minimization of risk given top priority. Maintaining the example of distribution relationships, many manufacturers will insist that they get paid up-front for the first few orders. Likewise, many distributors worry that the manufacturers are going to take their money and run.
All of this over-sensitivity to risk needs be put aside in order for trust to be built. Companies need to understand that there are unknowns in dealing with companies that they have not dealt with before, and either take steps to mitigate the risk that do not destroy trust (for example, using neutral third parties as references) or at minimum be willing to share the risk and come to reasonable compromises in the interest of developing what are at the time very young business relationships.
Much of the lasting attitude that will permeate the relationship is built in the early formative period when the relationship is still being defined. This attitude can have a definite effect on the success of the relationship, even in the long-term. You don’t want to start in a position of negativity and then have to put in extra effort to establish a good relationship with your business partner (if a company’s culture allows for such distrust initially, they will likely not take the later actions necessary to mend the relationship anyway). Any given person is far more likely to help a friend than an acquaintance. If you start on good terms you can get an early emotional “in” and you’ll already be one step ahead in building a successful business relationship.
One last piece of advice – don’t let your lawyers get in the way.