You may have heard the maxim that “it isn’t about what you know but who you know that matters.” This statement emphasizes how important relationships are because they enable you to connect with people in ways that enrich your life and benefit your business. As a business owner, it is incumbent upon you to cultivate great relationships if you are to enjoy lasting success. Let us start by looking at the broad categories of the relationships you need to build.
The Major Categories of Relationships You Need to Build
Relationships with your employees
By now, you must be aware that people can resign in a heartbeat and find a better place to work very quickly. Employees don’t quit jobs, they quit bad managers (employers). It is therefore imperative that you cultivate a relationship of loyalty, trust and mutual respect with your team so that everyone will be committed to and working towards the same goals.
When your team is engaged, you will have higher rates of customer satisfaction since your employees will transfer their feelings about their jobs to the way they interact with customers. Think of it this way, would you want to do repeat business with an enterprise that has grumpy, disgruntled employees?
There are a few keys to building and sustaining great relationships with your team. For example, you can have frequent (once a month, for example, if your team isn’t a very large one) one-on-one meetings with the members of your team so that you listen to them and get to really know them. Don’t let these meetings be entirely about their missed targets or other transgressions they have committed, although these can also be discussed with a view to improving the situation rather than apportioning blame.
When team members are having their own meetings, create a culture in which they first check in by sharing what is going great for them, anything notable happening outside work (a new baby expected soon, for example), as well as any specific challenges they are facing.
It is also important for you to spare some time and make yourself available when a member of your staff wants to talk to you. Give them an opportunity to open up and listen genuinely. As time goes by, they will view you as someone who cares, and that will create a lasting bond between that employee and your business.
Relationships with your customers
The other category of people that you need to cultivate great relationships with is your customers. When customers have a good relationship with a business, they are more likely to come back each time they need the product or service that you offer. These customers are also more likely to recommend you and your business to their circle.
As you know, word of mouth recommendations are very powerful and your business will reap the rewards of having customers who rave about it. This is the reason why you and your team need to go all out in addressing the needs, wants and desires of customers. This starts with great products and goes all the way to exceptional customer care.
Seek customer feedback, especially about what they aren’t happy about and do everything possible to make things right. For example, if you are in the hospitality business, move around interacting with your clients and respectfully seek their views about their impressions and what could be better. Keep growing the number of happy customers and watch your business soar!
Relationships with the community and other stakeholders
It is also important for you to cultivate great relationships with your suppliers, vendors, local government departments and the local community in general. This is because having the goodwill of these categories of people will firmly anchor your business within the society, and you may not encounter such a hard time when you need help.
For example, a strong bond with your suppliers can get you better terms of credit during the times when your cash flow isn’t so great. Similarly, great community relationships nurtured through charity events and other community-level activities can yield referrals or contacts of other businesses that have what you need.
It is therefore beneficial to cultivate relationships with these direct and indirect stakeholders so that even when times are tough, the relationships you have built will ensure that people choose your business over the other options available.
The Key Cornerstones of Cultivating Relationships
Regardless of whether you are building relationships with your employees, customers, suppliers or even the local authorities, there are some foundational cornerstones that have to underpin this process if you are to succeed in creating meaningful relationships rather than simply accumulating the contacts of people. We discuss those cornerstones below.
In your desire to build relationships, remember to imagine how you would want to be treated and then treat others in that exact way. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not just because you want to fit in and win the friendship of another person. Authenticity will take you far because people intuitively sense whether you are being genuine or are just acting for the sake of attaining your own objectives. Remember this statement as you build relationships; who you really are speaks so loudly that people can’t hear what you are saying.
Be ready to reciprocate
Lasting relationships are nurtured when both parties are willing to go above and beyond for each other. It is a give-and-take situation, but you should be willing to give before you can ever expect to take.
I know someone who each time they call my first question is “what does he want this time?” even before I pick up the phone. He has been consistent in going silent and only calls when he needs something from me. You can guess where this relationship is headed. Don’t be like that. Give, even with no expectation that you will ever get from that person. Your circle of true friends will grow.
It isn’t about benefitting
As you cultivate relationships, don’t be so focused on what you can get out of the relationship. Chances are you won’t directly benefit from many of the relationships you create, and that’s fine. Relating with people genuinely so that they don’t get the impression that you are after something will ironically make them more willing to do business with you.
For example, I once knew a naturopathic doctor who would take the histories of his patients extensively and then send them home to use the things they can find around them at little to no cost. Only when those failed did he escalate to selling them his specially prepared remedies. He was never short of clients to serve because the patients knew he was genuinely interested in helping them improve their health. So they flooded to him despite the high fees he charged.
The lesson? Don’t go in with your own interests as the driver. Put the other person’s interests first, and they will reward you by promoting your interests. As Zig Ziglar puts it, you can get anything you want if you help enough people get what they want.
In short, it pays to build great relationships with all the people who can or may interact with your business. Business relationships don’t differ from personal relationships, so approach them in the same way. Remember, the entrepreneurial journey can sometimes be a lonely one. It helps when you have genuine connections with clients, suppliers, members of the community and other business owners. Your life will be more meaningful and the successes you notch will be sweeter!
To Your Success,