A relational partnership is a partnership that develops on the premise of a close, personal relationship built on trust (Mohr, 1994). With this type of partnership there is an open line of communication, and the parties work together in order to overcome any potential problems. Both sides of the partnership are trying to make money, but the more important factor is developing a long-term, working relationship that will continue to generate money over time. When relational partnerships are successful, it is often not necessary to have more than minimal negotiations about price. In addition, minor details will not be allowed to derail or end the relationships because the goal is to establish an ongoing mutually beneficial exchange.
Relational partnerships may develop because of personal ties, but more often they occur due to professional necessity. For example, every year large US businesses recruit new employees using booths at career fairs across the country. Such a career fair program is not significant enough for the company to enter into a strategic partnership with an employment service to perform hiring at career fairs, but finding employees with the necessary skills is still very important. Regional managers will likely be responsible for this job and they may form a relational partnership with the organizations that host the job fairs in their area to ensure that when the job fairs are planned the representative company will be included. A relational partnership is more similar to a friendship than to a market exchange. Rather than showing concern only for their own self interests, partners will offer their time and resources to continue the relationship, because of the expected future benefits of continuing interactions. James Cash Penney, the founder of the US department store chain JCPenney, believed that “all great businesses are built on friendship”. If this ideal is applied, a strong foundation can be formed through relational partnerships.