In business, even in this fast-paced and seemingly hyper-connected world, relationships are important. It takes commitment, for sure. But, that commitment to building relationships is essential when we have colleagues from around the globe.
First, let’s talk about what relationships are not. They are not business cards collected at a networking event, a request to connect through LinkedIn, a “like” on Facebook, or a buddy who takes you out to a fancy dinner to sell you his product. With the wrong ideas, you could end up like many business leaders who mistakenly think their circle will follow them out the door to their next venture.
Business relationships, like all relationships, are more complex than meets the eye.
I recently interviewed business owners who shared several stories how the existence or lack of relationships impacted them.
One business owner described a friendship with an ad agency executive who handled their business and used their resources for other agency clients. As soon as the owner was no longer a source of business, the connection collapsed. The business owner was stunned because of all that he had provided to his so-called friend.
A Corporate Executive had been focused on running a business with little attention paid to what was next. When the Executive successfully merged the business with another, she was out of work but not ready to retire. She quickly realized she had walked out the door without taking her “rolodex.” As a result, she had to start from scratch in building her network if she intended to put out a consultant’s shingle or find another corporate opportunity.
Playing rainmaker for yourself or your business may not have been on your radar. It is essential. The old adage still rings true: it’s all about who you know.
Here are several ideas, that I’ve acquired from years of building my business and coaching business leaders, for building and maintaining business relationships:
- Keep track of who you know, what they do, and how they might be helpful to you.
- Share goals and develop mutual respect. In other words, a little vulnerability goes a long way.
- Ask how you can be helpful to the other person and be ready with what you want in return (if they ask).
- Create a connection that extends beyond an e-mail or LinkedIn connection. Make an effort to actually meet in person.
- Do something for someone else without expecting anything in return.
If you’re a living, breathing human (and I assume you are), these 5 tips are not complicated. They are, however, tough. They are tough because relationship-building takes time and commitment and can seem like sideways energy. In the end, though, relationships are foundational to your success in both business and in life.
Susan K Spaulding is an Author, Facilitator, Researcher, Strategist, Consultant, and Coach.
I work with businesses and leaders to take inventory, uncover the possibilities and navigate a path forward.