Managing Relationships: Get to know your business associates

Snack Corner

This is a bittersweet article for me to pen this month, as it is my last as Concessions Editor of Film Journal International. I have been writing for the magazine for 17 years, and it is time to change the voice. Jimmy Sunshine asked me to start this column when he heard I was starting my own consulting company, World Around Trade Services, after leaving Ricos Products. He thought it would be good for his magazine and for my fledgling business. He was right. Jimmy and I remain good friends, and I became good friends with his brother Robert as well. Their family has treated me very well over the years, and I greatly appreciate it.

I have written about relationships many times over the years. I’ve said, “It is important to work with your vendors and your buyers as partners. It is important to visit your partners’ facilities. It is important to get to know everyone in your industry, including those people you currently do not engage. It is important to try to bridge gaps, and not burn bridges.” Of all the things I could have written about for my last article, this one is the most important to me.

Working relationships can be tricky things. You want to do what is best for your company, at all times, and you want to work with strong partners who deserve your trust. You also want to be able to enjoy the many long hours that we work, hopefully with people who can actually talk about more than just work. So we find our way through the maze, working with people who help our companies succeed and finding some friends along the way.

It is not always smooth. We make mistakes and create obstacles and still have to work together. This month’s “Concession Spotlight” executive profile focuses on me, written by Adam Gottlieb. I thought it was fitting to ask Adam to write it because I knew I wanted my last “Snack Corner” article to be about relationships. Mine and Adam’s did not get off to a good start. At all. In fact, he has admitted that he wanted to throw me through a window. I must admit I wanted to run over him with my rental car outside his office.

But we worked at it. We both knew we had to work together in an industry that is actually quite small. I also firmly believe that you can and should always keep your options and doors open and never give up trying to get along with other people. Ultimately, it comes down to respect. We forced each other to respect our positions and ourselves as people and we slowly made it work. We now freely claim each other as friends, whether we are working together or not.

I have many relationships in this industry with people I do not, nor have ever, worked with. People who work within completely different areas of this business are still part of my industry. I have friends who laugh at me because I “know everyone.” I laugh goodheartedly, but take it as a huge compliment. I do know lots of people, because I have wanted to engage fully. Networking is all about relationship management, which comes down to respecting people enough to actually get to know them.

I started on the concessions side of the business. I have written my articles about concessions since the start, because it is such an important part of what we do. But then I got to know the equipment side of the business, and the film side, when I launched Cinema Solutions and my company became involved in all parts of the business. Getting to know the people in these companies has been so rewarding to my career and helped me grow as a businesswoman. I have taken advice, criticism and praise from all corners and that is because I have cultivated my relationships to be open to all of it.

Our industry is continuing to evolve within the reality of social media and technology advancement, which challenge traditional forms of human interaction such as talking, meeting and sitting together. Our industry depends on people still wanting to come together in a physical way, as a group, in a public setting for a movie. So we have to respect our customers as people and engage them in a relationship with us, as a partner to provide a service that makes their life more enjoyable. I truly believe that if we look at our customers this way, and manage our relationships with them as people, we will stay ahead of the game and continue to be a part of their lives.

Relationship management is loaded with a lot of common sense and practical application. Treat others as you want to be treated. This applies to our business partners, our customers and our friends.

I offer my many thanks to Film Journal International for the privilege of writing for the magazine all these years. I thank Kevin Lally for being a great editor to work with at FJI. I thank all of you for reading the articles, giving me heck when you disagreed with me or praising me when you thought I made a good point. I look forward to many more years in this industry and continuing to read what others have to write. Thank you, thank you, and goodnight!