Ideas I haven’t thought of…

These wise words were often shared by my late father. (The greatest mentor I could have ever asked for!) In fact, one of my favorite stories was based on this very premise.

Dad shared that he was participating in a key supplier meeting – my father was the president of a regional pharmaceutical distributor at the time – and the meeting had all but stalled. Dad was there to support the business relationship, yet he sensed that the supplier was not on board with the advantages that his firm could deliver. And the salesperson assigned to manage the account was fumbling for words and continually restating “standard” talking points which were simply not impressing the client.

So, what did my father do? He slowly leaned forward and said, “What my esteemed manager has been talking about are excellent reasons to do business with us. And frankly, they are the precise capabilities that many of your competitors have recognized as advantages.”

What he did next caused everyone in the room to lean in and pay attention.

“But that’s not enough,” dad said. “What I believe you want is a partnership that brings you fresh ideas and innovation. Something that will help us both achieve the next level in this relationship.”

My father said the salesperson was aghast and visibly shaken.

Dad continued,”Instead of the kind of standard relationship we would bring to any supplier, I have an idea. Imagine if we accepted your product into inventory, at no cost to you, and distributed it to all of the other pharmaceutical distributors, getting you out of logistics management and back into innovative product development?”

After a brief silence, the supplier spoke up, “Now that’s an innovative idea. If you can make that work, I think we’d be interested in partnering with you.”

My dad calmly replied, “I must admit that’s just one idea that came off the top of my head. I actually have ideas I haven’t even thought of yet, and if you’re willing to position us as your exclusive partner, I’ll bring future ideas to you first.”

This was the start of what transformed into a deep and trusting relationship – the kind of business partnership that we all strive to achieve. And it began when my dad offered to share creative ideas that he hadn’t thought of yet.

In future posts I’m going to endeavor to stretch your mind a bit. I also want to challenge you to think differently. Only then will you discover the kind of creativity necessary to move relationships to the next level.

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