Upside vs. downside potential in relationship management

I was chatting yesterday with friends Stuart Arsenault and Brian Peters about some partnership things. Stuart mentioned something interesting about “upside vs. downside potential” in relationship management. I thought this was an interesting way to frame things.

In some relationships, you’re trying to limit downside potential. For Shogun, this is our relationship with Shopify. Pretty much nothing we can do with that relationship will result in 1000 leads overnight. On the other hand, they could destroy our business over night if they decided they didn’t like us. Mostly, we’re trying to Not Fuck It Up™.

In other relationships, you’re trying to enhance upside potential. These are your new platforms, your new agency partnerships, your new integrations. Any of these (but definitely not all of them) can result in huge upside for your business, but it’s not the end of the world if any given one of them falls apart.

This feels like a helpful mental model for a bunch of decision making. Defining the type of relationship you’re working in will help you decide how much time and effort goes in to it, what types of activities you’ll do in the context of that relationship, etc.

Things to consider here still: the above examples of each are obvious – but once we get in to greyer territory, how do we identify where on the spectrum a relationship lands? Exactly how does that influence activities? What’s a fair and equitable split of your time among both types of relationships, given that they’re both important for different reasons?