Don’t Give Lousy Referrals

Every referral you make will have an impact on your reputationYour reputation really does depend on it.

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BY Andrew Griffiths - 07 Mar 2017

Every referral you make will have an impact on your reputation

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In business we often get asked for referrals by other business owners. I wonder if people think enough about the commitment that comes with making a referral or recommendation? Get it wrong and you can actually damage your own brand and reputation.

Personally, I put a lot of thought into making a referral. I think long and hard about the person asking for the referral, their personality type, their business ethic and their track record of working with others. Then I think about potential businesses that I could refer and I do my best to find a match.

If I don't think there is a match, I will let the person asking for the referral know that I don't have anyone I can actually refer them to. The reason I go to this amount of effort is because I don't want to damage any relationship that I have, and by making a bad referral, I can end up becoming the bad guy, if things don't work out.

If I think two businesses are a match, I will do a personal introduction by email, explaining why I think they can work well together. And I also ask to be kept up to date on how the relationship is panning out. Specifically I like to be told if there are any issues.

Recently I had an embarrassing situation where I referred a client of mine to a PR firm. He kept me in the loop regarding how the relationship was going. To be honest it wasn't going well, and finally, I received an exasperated phone call from him saying the PR firm couldn't do his work now because they are too busy.

I did a personal introduction to the PR firm, and not once did anyone from the company contact me to explain any issues prior to giving the bad news to my client. I did a get a conciliatory email a few days later, saying they hope it hasn't damaged our relationship.
Of course it's damaged our relationship. It was very unprofessionally handled. If there was an issue they should have let me know and asked for advice or at least given me a heads up so I could talk to my client. I will never refer any other clients to this PR firm simply because I can't trust them to do the right thing.

Fortunately, my client is OK with me, but it could have easily gone down another path. I feel that my reputation with my client is damaged as a result of the poor communication skills of the PR firm that I was trying hard to recommend for a project.

My point here is simple. Be considered when you are either making a referral or making an introduction. After all, it is your reputation on the line in many ways. I suggest taking a request for a referral seriously, give it the attention it deserves, and don't be afraid of saying no if you can't help them, specifically if you don't see a good fit between the two parties.

On the upside, if you develop a reputation for making great introductions and referrals, you will attract business because of the credibility you bring to these interactions. Bottom line - don't give lousy referrals, your reputation really does depend on it.