The Workflow of Relationships

This guest blog was contributed by Mike Stramaglio | 7/20/13
Over many years in this industry, I have seen countless changes in technology, people and business models. But for successful businesses, there have always been a couple of constants that are imperative in our industry as well as all other industries: relationships and what I call “care-ability.” No matter what business you are in, the keys to success and longevity are built on strong relationships and truly caring for people, partners, companies and even the industry you’re in.


All successful businesses share a common characteristic: Their owners and management teams understand the value of long-term relationships. They are very skillful at building and growing relationships with their customers, partners, industry peers and even their competitors. These leaders also understand that all of the technological knowledge, financial savvy and strategic thinking in the world – while important – are meaningless to their business without solid, long-term relationships.

Relationships don’t just happen. Like anything else worthwhile, they need to be built on a strong foundation and be constantly nurtured with clear communication, execution and consideration. My strongest relationships started with a simple handshake and a mutual commitment to make something happen. Then, with respect for everyone in the relationship, a constant bidirectional dialogue updating everyone about status and accomplishments in regard to our mutual commitment followed until completion.

An important aspect of such communication is a clear and honest evaluation of how everyone is performing. I frequently ask my customers and partners, “How are we doing? On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate us?” This really helps to break the ice and get issues on the table so a clear and transparent discussion can be had. When the project is complete, we talk about how we did – the good, the bad and the ugly – so that we can learn from our mistakes, build on our accomplishments and get ready for the next big thing to do together.
But that is just the beginning of the relationship. Going forward, it’s essential that you continue the conversation whether or not you’re still working on projects together. So many times, we get caught up in fire drills, our schedules fill up, and we neglect relationships that we built because we’re just so busy. Really? How much time does it take to reach out to a partner and just say hi – especially with all of the tools you have at your fingertips, like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook? Not to mention there is always a phone within reach. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached out to a partner just to catch up and was surprised that it led to another prosperous project.
The underlying foundation of a successful long-term relationship is trust. Without trust, partners are continuously questioning each other’s motives instead of focusing on the task at hand. Building trust is simple; say what you’re going to do and do it. With this simple philosophy, you can truly build mutually successful, long-term relationships on just a handshake. I always say, “Never create a business relationship that requires 10 attorneys. Choose one that believes in a handshake.”

Have you ever been shopping, and when a clerk comes up and asks, “May I help you?” just by looking that person in the eye, you can tell that he or she really doesn’t care? Some people are just asking because their boss told them to ask everyone they see the same question. And how annoying is it when you’re in a store with dozens of these same clerks walking up to you every 10 seconds asking the same empty question?

In contrast, how refreshing is it when a clerk asks how your day’s going and you can feel that person’s sincerity? Or you go back to a hotel that you’ve stayed at once or twice, and the desk clerk remembers your name and welcomes you back with a big smile? Care-ability is not about saying the right things; it’s about a sincere interest in another person.
Caring for others is a natural part of being human. We all care for family and friends, and we are deeply concerned with their welfare. However, you may think that bringing that same level of caring to a business environment feels awkward or isn’t appropriate.

Not really. Small businesses, huge corporations and entire industries are made up of people just like you and me. They’re all just trying to make a buck and provide a great life for the families they care about. Like the experience with the store clerk, instinctively, we all recognize people that show a genuine concern for people and those who are only focused on themselves and their personal success. Which one would you rather work with?

I’ll never forget the day when we were working through an acquisition that would have been very valuable for the company, and our CEO turned down the proposal and simply said, “I just don’t like those guys.” I’ve always wondered if those guys ever understood that they dropped the ball simply by not caring.
Caring isn’t just about asking how the family is or giving the occasional hug. It’s about every aspect of your relationship. In a business relationship, it’s about knowing your customers or partners and really understanding what makes them tick. Caring is knowing how they like to do business and making a genuine effort to accommodate their requests.

However, caring is also about being honest in a relationship. So many times I’ve seen people make promises just to get a deal, never intending to fulfill their promise. Inevitably, this hurts everyone involved. It takes caring to say to a customer, “No, we can’t do that, but let’s look at some things we can do that might meet your needs.” That old adage “Honesty is the best policy” is always practiced by caring people, companies and partners.
One of the great attributes of care-ability in a business environment is that it is a strong competitive advantage that doesn’t cost you anything but effort. Investing emotional capital in your employees, customers and partners will usually be received with gratitude and mutual respect.

Simply said, people want to work for companies that care, and customers want to buy from companies that care. Your business partners also want to know that you care about their success, that you clearly understand their mission, and that you will work to help them reach their goals.

In the imaging channel, we all recognize the companies that really care about their employees, customers and partners. These are the same companies that truly care about our industry and channel. They work tirelessly to help the industry grow, innovate and evolve. Likewise, it’s easy to spot the companies that are only in it for personal gain and don’t help the industry to grow. Who would you rather do business with?

Building long-term, successful relationships isn’t painful, and it doesn’t cost money. It just takes effort, communication, honesty and, of course, care-ability.

Contact Mike Stramaglio at

Mike Stramaglio

Mike Stramaglio has a long history of leadership in the Office Equipment industry. Over his nearly 30-year career, he has served as president and COO of Hitachi Koki Imaging Solutions Inc., and held senior management positions with Minolta Corporation and Ricoh Corporation. Under his stewardship, Hitachi earned the prestigious Most Innovative Manufacturer of the Year award for two consecutive years. He was also formerly CEO of Imaging Portals, Inc., and a two-time winner of the Executive of the Year award, presented by Marketing Research Consultants Inc. He joined Electronics For Imaging as General Manager of EFI’s Service Automation division in 2003. In this role, he was responsible for Automated Dispatch Systems and the Intelligent Device Management solution set, bringing them together under a new name: Mobile Workforce Automation. In acknowledgment of his experience and expertise, M2M Magazine elected him M2M Technology Advisor (Imaging) in early 2007.