Make friends before you make profits: A case for building excellent business relationships
Building friendships with businesses perceived to be competitors can have unexpected positive results, according to Geoff Prissman, director and co-founder of Slo-Jo, creator of tailor-made taste sensations for South Africa’s leading restaurant chains
Slo-Jo has always been proudly independent, but some of our greatest successes have come about through unexpected collaborations that don’t necessarily arise out of formally scheduled meetings. The best of these happen over extended lunches or dinners where everyone is relaxed, and where open conversations lead in unexpected but really positive directions.
One example of this is our relationship with Café Caps, a local manufacturer of coffee machine capsules and pods for retail and chain stores. They wanted to expand their product offering to include hot chocolate pods, but couldn’t find a manufacturer that was the right fit. This is a business that many would view as a competitor to Slo-Jo, but chatting over a relaxed lunch, we learned enough about one another’s businesses to realise that we could help them solve a business conundrum with one of our products – and that they could help us boost our chocolate powder sales.
What struck me about this new business relationship, and others that we’ve built through engaging with other business as friends and not competitors, is that we did not initially meet them with the intention of working together or even selling a product to them. Rather, we invested time in learning about their ideas, their vision and plans for the future – a lot like a young dating couple would – which led to an ‘a-ha’ moment that has evolved into bigger, better things for all of us.
I also believe that building relationships with other local businesses, like we have done with the likes of Mugg & Bean and KFC will be one of the ways that South African businesses rise above the economic headwinds that are challenging us all at present, whether it’s through currency fluctuations or stifled economic growth.
We will all get by with a little help from our friends… and in the true South African tradition of ubuntu, we are what we are because of who we all are. If we work together, we can rise above just about anything!