A famous man once said, “In business you must know when to build a bridge and when to burn a bridge.” Many times each week I think this statement is closer to the truth than anything else.

building_bridges imageKnowing when to build and when to burn is often a very fine art that only comes with experience. It is something that I have learnt the hard way on many occasions and it is something I still see so many people getting wrong each and every day.

Now let’s not kid ourselves, building a bridge takes a lot of time, energy and money. First, there’s the planning phase and the strategy behind why the bridge needs to be built in the first place and then we have to think about the materials, purchasing, getting the right team to assist in the build process and finally, getting the bridge to an operational state. The parallels between relationship-building and the physical nature of building an actual bridge are scaringly similar. They both take a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of sweat, determination and motivation to succeed but the end result in both circumstances is always worth the effort.

burning_bridges_2In stark contrast to the time and effort it takes to build a bridge, the destruction of one is a very simple process. Whether we metaphorically talk about burning the bridge down or whether it is simply blown to pieces, rarely a bridge is slowly taken apart piece by piece. Again, the similarities between the collapsing of an operational bridge and what was once a strong relationship are exactly the same. Both are usually very quick, noisy and destructive.

The real challenge in business is the ability to stand back and make a decision about whether you want to build or burn that bridge. The crossroads that you come to regarding relationships and challenges within the business world are all too frequently met by business owners holding pitchforks and burning stakes. Although the short-term benefit, rant or emotional explosion may exert a short-term positive feeling of euphoria or righteousness at the time, rarely does burning a bridge solve the problem or create a long-term solution.

There are always going to be times when the destruction of a pathway and burning of a bridge is absolutely necessary but the reality is, in business we should be aiming to build and strengthen a vast number more bridges than what we set out to burn and destroy.