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How can you build trust in your business partnerships?

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When you see a successful business, it seems like the success happened overnight – a Cinderella story, if you will. We all know that’s not reality. But the beauty of building and running your own business (although it can be extremely challenging at times) is that it allows you to take what’s broken and rethink the structures around it. This process has helped us define our principles and create practices that not only produce great work, but also happy employees and satisfied customers.

After more than a decade of going against conventional business standards, we’ve developed a new set of rules that we live by. Of course, the traditional ways of finding new businesses and bringing people together to work on projects still exist, but in the last couple of years in particular, a new way of working has really taken off, and it’s one we’re at. Gather quietly improved, waiting for the world of work to catch up with her.

While we’ve done this, it has given us insight into how to bring the best people together for the best results. Whatever industry you’re in, work-from-anywhere paradigms have ensured that you can find the best people for any job, regardless of location. The world of work has changed forever – we think it’s time to change with it.

Related: How I Know Who to Trust in Business

References only

The rule: Your skills as an interviewer will make for great hires.

The new rule: Assume your ability to screen candidates is average at best.

Ninety-three percent of Americans believe they are better than average drivers. That is, of course, not statistically possible. So I ask you, do you think you are a better than average interviewer? Well, what if you’re not? Most people simply aren’t trained to properly interview job applicants other than avoiding potentially illegal questions (and even then, one in five interviewers unconsciously do it anyway). When you accept or assume that you are likely to be an average interviewer, you may want to consider other ways to filter candidates. We’ve worked with a “refer and vouch” system from day one and it has brought some serious power players through our doors – many of whom are still here 10 years later.

Any marketer will tell you that word of mouth is the most effective advertising, and the same goes for staff. While we encourage anyone to join the Gather ranks, any person who eventually joins must be referred and guaranteed by an existing member. There’s no cover letter, resume, or application process here, because those things don’t tell us what we need to know about how you work and what results you can get.

There’s the old saying, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” In our community, both things are true. Who you know may get you in, but it is what you know (not to mention how you apply that knowledge, as well as your general work ethic and attitude) that gives them the confidence to vouch for you personally. There is no greater vote of confidence than that. And the fact is, referrals have much higher levels of job satisfaction and retention

No matter how big the network gets (and size should never be your goal over quality), every step in that growth is built on hard-earned trust. Both we and our customers know that every member we add has been personally referred and vouched for members of the community.

Related: 7 Trust-Building Tips to Use in Your Business

Double opt-in

The rule: do as you are told.

The new rule: double opt-in method.

There is an old, but unfortunately still relevant joke in the consulting world: employees are voluntarily TOLD to work on a project. We live in the midst of the so-called “Great Surrender”; assigning an employee or consultant a task as if it were some kind of gift should be a thing of the past.

At its core, all jobs are about solving a problem. We are building teams around customer issues. So when we empower our network of self-employed people to raise their hands and say, “Yes, I want to work on that project, with that team and for that client,” the dynamics really kick in when it’s time is for implementation.

In today’s economy, the new best practice is a double opt-in method. Employees want to be as knowledgeable about the project and the partners they work with as the companies that hire those employees. If both sides get to choose, it’s a real meeting of equals. That means full permission to do the work comes from both sides. Regardless of what service you provide or what product you sell, giving your employees the opportunity to sign up for the work they do not only does wonders for morale but also promotes higher quality output because the work is that they do. love it.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Business Partnerships

RFPs = Business Mediocrity

The rule: RFPs lead to the best suppliers.

The new rule: Trust your partners, not the process.

There’s a reason some people make their living writing documents like grant applications and industry proposals: They follow very specific conventions and language, and as such they are a recipe for a very specific kind of mediocrity endemic to business.

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are a decidedly inhumane practice and they are the worst way to judge what kind of partner you will be working with. RFPs exist because of a lack of trust. The reason we only work with trusted partners is because we want relationships with people, not a client’s trust in our talents to stay within the strict guidelines of proposal writing.

We’ve worked with some of the biggest corporate names in the world, but that’s not the feather of our cap. The trust we have established in our community is person to person and we strive for the same relationships with our customers. As an owner-run company, we make decisions about the next client or project based on the type of work, the type of client, and the right fit for our network members. This is a distinctly different approach to responding to RFPs.

The output of an RFP is artificial precision. The outcome of an RFP is a broken promise. Companies rarely get the talent on the page. Service providers make the sale and then deliver the talent after the deal is closed. We’ve found that RFPs often mean bringing in a B-team to support the work. I want our customers to know who they are buying, which is Hilary or Trinity (or some of the exceptionally talented people who work at Gather) – that is the service.

Rules are there to be broken. Above all, remember that your current rules are just that: current. Challenge them. See how far they bend before breaking (under controlled conditions). The new rules will become the pillars on which you can build your business through an evolutionary process, rather than the one you apply simply because it’s how business is done.

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