Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Business Administration

Major Professor

David W. Schumann

Committee Members

Ernest R. Cadotte, Sarah F. Gardial, William Q. Judge


The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate why buying and selling organizations build, maintain, and/or dissolve interorganizational relationships. To address the buyers’ and the sellers’ perspective, the author analyzed a previously collected data set from the buyers’ perspective, and collected and analyzed primary data from the sellers’ perspective. Grounded theory methodology was implemented as a means for building theory which captures the variation within the buyer-seller relationships.

The findings indicate that variation within business relationships can be explained by the approaches buyers (Study 1) and sellers (Study 2) take when interacting with partners. In particular, buyers’ utilized an approach to supplier relationships process which focuses on the overt action firms engage in when interacting with supplier organizations. This process includes the following four components (categories): (1) leveraging relational values, (2) setting relationship expectations, (3) establishing relational routine, and (4) evaluating relationship value. Each of these categories included relevant properties and dimensions. The approach process evolves over time and is influenced by the recognition of relational catalysts. Catalysts are events or situations that bring relationships to the attention of a buyer and instigate the approach process.

In the second study, the seller used a process called managing the customer base when interacting with buyers. Managing the customer base is a process that establishes business structure which enables a seller to fulfill customer needs in ways that make the customer’s more successful in delivering value to consumers. This process includes the following five components (categories): (1) understanding the use situation, (2) focusing on customers’ success, (3) creating a 1-to-1 value proposition, (4) delivering value through 1-to1 relationships, and (5) experiencing consequences of 1-to1 relationships. Each of these categories included relevant properties and dimensions.

This research extends the buyer-seller relationship development theory by capturing variation within the relationship phenomena. While the marketing literature has conceptualized relationship development in a linear manner, this research provides evidence of a process that is influenced by contextual situations and interaction between participating firms. This research can be extended through large-scale verification of the findings. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of managerial implications and future research.

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