We learn a great deal about managing business-IT relationships from our work and the people we work with. If our eyes and ears are open, we can also learn a lot from our personal lives. I’ve just returned from a short scuba diving vacation where one of the fundamental disciplines of Business Relationship Management was reinforced for me.
Looking for a New Service Provider – The Power of First Impressions
Every year around this time my wife and I head for Cozumel, Mexico. For me, this is all about 1 week’s scuba diving – a hobby (passion?) I’ve had for many years, and one of my favorite ways to relax and refresh. This was the 10th year of diving on the Cozumel reef system — the second largest reef system in the world.
I never tire of Cozumel, but last year, a diver I met told me about the amazing cenotes — large underwater caverns linked by tunnels that travel for miles inland. These are found on the Yucatán Peninsula, a 30-minute ferry ride from the island of Cozumel to the mainland. A unique characteristic of some cenotes is that although they are filled with fresh water, they are above sea level. This means that if you enter them and are able to access depths below sea level, the fresh water changes to sea water. Where the fresh and salt water meet is a phenomenon known as a halocline. A halocline creates some very strange phenomena for a diver — a sudden change in temperature and buoyancy, and stunning visual effects. (For a great little YouTube video of the effects, see here.)
Anyway, I needed to find a highly qualified and licensed guide to take me to a cenote. Although I’m an experienced diver, I am not cave certified, so I did not want to go with just any bozo with a wetsuit and an ad in the yellow pages. Thanks to the wonderful world we live in, it did not take long to find a cenote guide who was highly recommended on sites such as TripAdvisor. I was pretty confident I’d found a suitable guide based on this research, but when I emailed him, my confidence factor began to increase.
The Greatest Danger With Communication is the Illusion That It’s Taken Place!
I credit Dan Appleton, a data modeling guru I had the pleasure to share a speaking platform many years ago with the wonderful quote in the headline above. One reason why my confidence in the dive guide increased was the quality of his initial communication. He laid out the options clearly. He explained everything by raising, then answering some key questions. For example, “Mr. Merlyn, if you are new to the cenotes, I recommend we go to Taj Mahaal or Chac Mool. Why do I recommend those? Because…” He went on, “I recommend you take the 7am ferry. I know that’s very early to be getting up while on vacation, so why do I recommend such an early start? Because…” And so it went. My follow-up questions were always responded to within 8 hours, and always with great clarity. I booked him.
As the trip approached, he communicated again, going back over the logistics, arrangements, and what I should expect. He even told me about the other diver that would be joining us. Every arrangement was validated and all opportunities for misunderstanding were reduced or eliminated. He said he’d meet me off the ferry — and not only did he do so on time, but he also recognized and approached me from among the several hundred other ferry passengers. (He’d seen an old photo of me from my scuba dive certification which he’d insisted on seeing before he’d confirm the reservation.)
After the trip, I went back to TripAdvisor to write my own review, and found myself re-reading the 60 or so reviews he already had out there — and nearly every one of them commented on his superb communications.
When your life is in someone’s hands, you need a very high level of trust and confidence. As a business executive, when your IT investment and competitive differentiation are in your Business Relationship Manager’s hands, you also need a very high level of trust and confidence. How you communicate with your business partner is key to building and sustaining that trust over time.
[For those interested, the other diver on this trip, Bruno, shot a video you can find here. Alex Mata, the dive guide is the guy with 2 air tanks, always leading the way. The diver you can see is me. Bruno was behind me, wielding the video camera and huge array of lights! We enter the halocline about 2:51 minutes into the video, though 3:57 and you can see the strange visual effects — quite disorienting! Fortunately, his superb pre-dive briefing had warned us to expect that he'd become all but invisible at the halocline, and instructed us to each swim to a different side of him so as to have some forward visibility. From 4:08 on you can see some nice shell fossils, stalactites and stalagmites.]