Op-Ed: Solid friendships fuel solid business

Burning bridges: an expression synonymous with "point of no return." This saying is typically used when a relationship becomes irreparable.

Burning bridges: an expression synonymous with “point of no return.” This saying is typically used when a relationship becomes irreparable.

Many professionals take this definition lightly, slamming the door in the face of future opportunities and risking destruction to their business and reputation. In this age of constant contact and networking, burning bridges with great people, managers, reports and vendors will land you in a professional graveyard. It's more important than ever during this economic downturn that people stick with people through the thick, and reap the benefits when the tides turn.

The truth is that people drift in and out of our lives. In PR, it's all about who you know and managing your reputation. I've always tried to like the folks I work with - genuinely like them. Keeping relationships strong can save you when times like these take a toll on your business. For this reason, I tend to stick with them and make an effort to ride the highs and lows with them. Many of my good friends and vendors have done the same for me.

In fact, one vendor helped me with my Web site and business cards when I first started Utopia (from a card table in my bedroom!). He didn't charge me a dime, just wanted to help a friend. Guess what? He's the first person I recommend when folks ask me for a good promotional agency. We continue to work together and applaud our mutual success.

Not everyone thinks this way. I was overwhelmingly disappointed in one long-time vendor who couldn't return a single one of my calls when I left my former post and the huge budgets that went with it to start over with nothing. Once I started gaining ground with my new venture, however, she broke the silence, but I'd since found other sources.

I learned an important lesson from these experiences. In the end, we don't work with companies; we work with people. Loyalty, genuine concern and friendship go a long way in business. Success and fortune will waver, but these core values remain constant. And, in the end, they become the true measure of our success.

Ann Subervi is president & CEO of Utopia Communications, which is headquartered in Red Bank, NJ.

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