The ROI of Business Friendships

Karen Salmansohn publishes a “Be Happy Dammit Tips” Newsletter. She quotes some fascinating statistics about the value of business friendships. For example:

– People with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work.

– Close friendships at work boost employee satisfaction by nearly 50%.

– People with at least three close friends at work are 46% more likely to be extremely satisfied their job – and 88% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

– Employees who are good friends with their bosses are more than twice as likely to be happy with their work.

The relevance of friendship is not new to the world of professional services. David Maister writes about friendship in his article titled Young Professionals: Cultivate the Habits of Friendship . He asserts, “The way most clients choose among professionals is essentially identical to the way people choose their friends. At the point of selecting a professional to work with, clients go with providers who can:

(a) make them feel at ease;

(b) make them feel comfortable sharing their fears and concerns;

(c) can be trusted to look after them as well as their transaction and (d) are dependably on their side.”

It seems logical to infer that clients who view you, their business advisor, as a friend are at least doubly more likely to be engaged in the work you do and be satisfied with the results you produce.

Take stock: how many clients can you call “friend”?

7 replies
  1. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    I think that our obsession with efficiency precludes taking time for friendship. Many folks thus become task oriented at the expense of personal orientation. It doesn’t have to be "either/or". It can be "both/and".


  2. Andrea Howe
    Andrea Howe says:

    I’ve been reflecting on this post a little more.

    I once worked for a one-of-a-kind consulting firm called AMS (American Management Systems) for about 10 years. I was lucky to join at the best of times (early 90’s). At its peak, AMS was a $1b/9,000-person firm.

    AMS has since been cleavered and acquired by two different firms. But the AMS "family" is still incredibly strong. Some AMSers have moved on to do great work for other firms; others have teamed up to create their own entrepreneurial ventures. A few years back someone had the idea to invite a few alumni to a happy hour in Northern VA, where the company had its headquarters for many, many years. The party planner expected no more than 25 people to show up. Imagine his surprise when over 200 came, including several of AMS’s founders — Charles Rossotti being one of them (Charles left AMS to head the IRS).

    A couple of years ago I consulted to the President of a boutique firm who wanted to know how to replicate the AMS "secret sauce."I knew what he meant — there was definitely something very special there — but I didn’t know what to tell him; I couldn’t exactly put my finger on the ingredients.

    I’m now realizing the core ingredient of the AMS secret sauce was friendship. I left AMS about eight years ago and, to this day, almost all of my closest friends are former AMSers. AMS encouraged us to form close bonds that extended well beyond the work day. It wasn’t uncommon for two AMSers to marry, even. AMS actively supported what some companies would document as a big no-no in a Policies & Procedures manual.

    My own connection to Charlie Green, in fact, is thru my first boss at AMS, who has made a point to stay in touch with me for 17 years.

    Yes, indeed, there is value to be found in friendships forged at work.

  3. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Andrea, I’ve always enjoyed your writing and I’m delighted to find your posts here at Trust Matters now, too.

    Your original post is good, but your comment is too good to get lost down at the bottom of the page.  I hope you will consider publishing it as a stand-alone post so other readers don’t miss it.

  4. James Irvine
    James Irvine says:

    Andrea, thank you for highlighting the importance of friendships with colleagues and clients as a key advantage in today’s new world of business. To help create great relationships with clients, it is also helpful to forget about your ‘role’ as, for example, Private Banking Relationship Manager and simply see yourself as one human being who wants to connect with another human being. When you do this, you become more accepting of whatever happens during the meeting, and you are able to see wants and needs in your client that you may have never perceived as a ‘professional so and so’.

    James Irvine, Team Egyii, Singapore

  5. Jamie Magee
    Jamie Magee says:

    Hi Andrea!  Great blog topic.  As you know  I also worked at AMS during the mid-90’s.  I echo all your points.  From my perspective, one additional element of the AMS "secret sauce" was what I saw as:  hire people who are simply "good" people.  Of course, lots of other attributes come into play in the hiring process.  But my point is that good people quickly form excellent work friendships, which results in heaps of corporate energy.

    Another anectdote highlighting the AMS social environment… in our first month there, my then roommate and coworker Neil Desai and I decided to organize a happy hour for AMS new hires.  A few emails snowballed into over 100 people at the first gathering, and then 300 a few weeks later. 

    The sociable nature of  AMSers created lots of work friendship collateral and extensive networking across the units of the company.  To this day, 13 years after I left AMS to start my own company, I still employ, do business with, and count among my best friends, people I met at AMS. 

    In my own consulting firm, I try to emulate the AMS recipe starting with hiring people who are already friends.  That has its risks, but when done right it works great every time.  The benefits of the resulting trust and responsibility are a huge part of our success.



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