Don't burn your bridges |  Career

You've got a job offer paying twice what you're getting now -- or better yet, a
venture capitalist likes your business plan and is going to give you loads of cash to
launch a start-up. You're tempted to go to your boss, who is an idiot, and tell him
what you think of him, dump your projects on his desk, and walk out.

Think again. Sure, you probably won't ever want to work there again, but there may be
other reasons to maintain your connections with a former employer. The prevailing
business model today is one of lean, mean operations and outsourcing everything but
your core competency -- contrasting sharply with the older model of the '50s and '60s,
which tried to do as much as possible in-house. Because of this new model, businesses,
especially high-tech ones, have an ever-increasing circle of business partners and
alliances. Besides sales and distribution alliances, you may have close alliances with
other companies who handle your networking, data processing, human resources, payroll
processing, and everything else that doesn't have to do with your core competency. A
lot of these alliances get built through existing personal contacts and

The Japanese have been doing this for years, in the form of "keiretsu," or a circle of
mutually beneficial business relationships. A true keiretsu is very formalized, and the
circle is often closed. Members of a keiretsu often serve on one another's board; they
may share research and development, or capital. A company may even be forbidden to sell
outside of his keiretsu. This traditional model is not often seen in the United States,
but some aspects of it are filtering through to American businesses, as the need for
interrelationships with other businesses becomes more critical.

Chances are, in your new job, you'll come into contact with dozens, or even hundreds of
other companies as you look to outsource critical tasks to them, or seek to convince
them to outsource their critical tasks to you. A lot of these alliances are made
because you had an established relationship with a company previously. It's even
possible that your former employer may be your new client.

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