What is IPT?

IPT proactively introduces companies with similar trading interests. With an emphasis on quality, we pride ourselves on helping our members create and sustain the best business relationships.

Relationship Building

The Importance of Relationship Building in Modern Business

By Bob Lafon, Senior Vice President of HCG Holdings LLC

We live in the so-called “digital age.” While this world is more connected than ever before by technology, the interpersonal aspect is just not the same. People are built for community; something in our nature longs for close personal relationships. The kind that are best developed by spending time with others in-person.

COVID-19 has had a serious impact on our ability to enjoy this kind of relationship building. We have all learned to adapt through video chats, which still afford us the ability to see one another, but it does not feel the same.


Recently, I was reminiscing about attending a conference last year. I was hosting meetings in a hotel suite where I averaged nine meetings a day. During the evenings, I would join with a group of 10-12 others who were unable to attend meetings at my suite and we would do things like enjoy steak and cigars, play some golf at Top Golf, or spend some time at a sponsored event. The individual and group dynamic was just so much more powerful that it allowed us to develop deeper connections. Connections and relationships that continue to this day.

This also reminded me of another event. One that while I’ve only had the pleasure to participate in once, I found to be perhaps the single most impactful event of my 30+ year career. That was the International Trade Convention in the beautiful island nation of Malta!

Allow me a moment to describe the event itself before discussing the highly esteemed relationships that were established at this remarkable event. Upon arrival, all participants joined in a social mixer held at a spectacular venue. It was relaxed with old acquaintances reconnecting and new participants like myself being introduced around the room by staff from the ITC. Choosing an interesting venue that exposed the audience to local cuisine and culture was a great way to tear down the defenses and allow people to connect. The next day began with a keynote address designed to give a current state of the industry with discussion around how we all must adapt to changing market conditions. From there we all participated in something like speed dating as we went from table to table every 10 minutes, meeting new people and learning about their organizations. Most discussions focused on ways in which we might collaborate on projects. Next was time in the exhibit hall where we had the opportunity to spend longer periods with companies who set up booths to display their capabilities and have in-depth discussions around business ventures.

Following this portion of the day, we next migrated to scenic patios and balconies just off a restaurant and bar with a view of boats docking in the bay. The atmosphere was again relaxed, social and almost vacation like. This atmosphere spawned a number of spontaneous fun activities that led to a more personal connection.

The evening kicked off with a ride to an outdoor venue right on the ocean with a large infinity pool that appeared like an extension of the ocean. We dined on local cuisine that further delighted our senses. Local Maltese entertainers then began live performances of song, dance and even some acrobatics giving everyone more insight into the local culture. The remainder of the evening was strictly social with many just drinking casually or even dancing to music playing in the background.

To me as a participant, it was almost like going on vacation to a spectacular destination with 400 of my closest friends! The location, atmosphere, food, entertainment, venue and format allowed a large group of mostly strangers to quickly become acquainted professionally, but perhaps more importantly, become friends.

The event took place in June of 2019. Upon returning, many calls and emails were exchanged in an attempt to do business with my new friends. Then 2020 happened; a global pandemic. All that momentum came to an instant halt as the world began to shut down in an attempt to mitigate the risk of contagion of something the medical community was struggling to understand and treat. As a result, events were cancelled and we all migrated to Zoom and TEAMS meetings in an attempt to pick up where we left off and do what business could be done.

While always wonderful to see the faces of business friends, it just was not the same. Not the same atmosphere, not the same scenery, not the same personal connection I experienced in Malta or other events for that matter.

Business does not need to be boring. We do not all need to be formal in our discussions. As a lifelong participant in trade shows, conferences and conventions, I can tell you there is nothing like spending time together, sharing experiences and creating memories that we will talk about for years to come. That’s how you build business relationships that last.

There is no telling what the future holds. We have vaccines but it takes time to vaccinate millions upon millions of people. As such, we do not really know what events may take place and which may be cancelled or done “virtually.” We of course hope the vaccines will perform at the levels the experts say they will, but that also remains to be seen. One thing I do know; I miss spending time with my business friends from around the world!

2022 is a long way away, but I know events like ITC Malta will be worth the wait and I can’t wait to get back to doing business with my friends.

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