Long-Term Relationships With Service Providers

Often through relocation for job opportunities, pursuing college education , or simply growing old, we can find ourselves in a situation where we have no biological family members around us. An individual still needs support in life in the absence of family members who are no longer physically present due to death, divorce, or living their own life’s purpose.  We may talk and interact more frequently with others than we do our kids, ex-spouses, or brother and sisters.

In today’s busy world, we often have many things competing for our attention. There are basic needs in life that each of us can’t or don’t choose to do alone. As a single person trying to achieve better work-life balance, I look for people to help me with those needs in a manner that exudes quality, reliability, and compassion. After years of workaholism, I wised up and now invest in relationships with friends that will be with me long past my current job. They assist where they can but often lead busy lives themselves.  However, critical, long-term relationships we often overlook are those we have with service providers.

During tax season I visited my tax consultant, Brian. He has been faithfully sorting through my tax documents for eight years now. He always remembers my name and smiles warmly when I sit down to go over my return with him. He asks how I have been doing and also tells me about the progress he’s made in his life. He has seen me through re-locations, divorce, and economic ups and downs. Even though my relationship with Brian is infrequent, it has quality and is consistent, due to his concern and efforts on my behalf.

Brian always asks about my job, my family, and the general state of my life that has nothing to do with my tax return. He shares stories about any new adventures that he and his wife have embarked on since the last time I have seen him. He keeps facts and past life information about me in his head even though he does hundreds of tax returns which lets me know I’m not just a number or an impersonal client relationship to him. A female client of his whose new husband thought they should switch to his accountant told her husband that Brian had been with her for many years before he showed up and she had no interest in switching out his services.

My hairdresser, Don, is another service provider who has supported me through interesting times in my life. Originally, I plopped down in his chair, distraught, wanting him to fix a whacked-out haircut I had received in Greenwich Village. Ordinarily, our paths would never have crossed. I live in a conservative region where views can often be suffocating. Don is male, and gay – the type of person who is not always welcomed in the “Bible Belt.”

We’ve talked about everything from breakups, to the loss of his mother, to my frustrations in the quest for the right life partner. He has enriched my mind and made me laugh after dealing with plenty of judgmental, stiff shirts. Also, he has become my advisor on issues other than the state of my hair. These include real estate investments, social issues, and travel. He has also shown me courage by living his life on his own terms and walking away from a high-paying, prestigious job that didn’t allow him to be the person he needed to be. My life is definitely richer and broader since I initially visited him just for hair care.

Preventive health care is a big deal for the middle-aged working person and making time for doctor’s visits is a must but often requires effort. Once a year I have a physical with my OB-GYN, James. He speaks in a soft, calming voice, and spends a lot of time inquiring about my history in the past year. Unlike a lot of doctor visits, I never feel rushed.  He takes his time to answer any questions, making suggestions concerning my emotional and physical well- being.

We tend to minimize the contribution our service providers make to our lives. Often, these people are the life-blood that keeps our chaotic lives chugging along. At the beginning of our lives, it may be the nanny or daycare worker who provides nurturing and attends to our basic needs as a helpless child while our parents earn a necessary living. In mid-life, a maid, masseuse, spiritual advisor, or therapist may provide support and ease when we deal with the adult crisis’s that intrude into our everyday lives. Sometimes at the end of our lives, it may be a hospice nurse, doctor, or paramedic who may be in the position to have the last conversation with us or hold our hand while we transition.

Everyone should express their gratitude to those that support them along their life’s journey in a helpful and dedicated way. Service providers have feelings, doubts, illness, and career struggles just like the rest of us. We should not behave in a spoiled, inconsiderate way if a dedicated service provider has an off day and things aren’t executed perfectly. We should show understanding and compassion to them just like we would with a family member who may be having a rough time. They are not robots who provide a service and then disappear. Whenever possible, we should show our gratitude to our long-term service providers for the excellent jobs they do for us. Hopefully, for my own service providers of many years, I have tried to get to know them on a personal level so the relationships aren’t one of just mechanics. Hopefully my consistency as a client provides them with some value and comfort as well.

– Lisa Blackwell

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