Updated: Jan 25
We are all in a variety of relationships whether we are trying to be or not. We have romantic relationships, family relationships, co-worker relationships etc. In this blog I want to address relationships pertaining to business start-ups.
Through my consulting career, I’ve often noticed this is an area of great challenge for many start-up business owners. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert, extrovert or plainly dislike people, we need to develop relationships in the context of our business.
I’d like to pose a straightforward question: what is one of the primary ways to build a relationship? Conversation! If I could see a show of hands I’m guessing some of you are either married or in a romantic relationship. How did you get to that place? Conversation! Somewhere in the timeline of your relationship you communicated, and I’m guessing you communicated A LOT.
It’s no different in business. Conversation is key to establishing and keeping great relationships. We as business owners need to converse with our lawyers, accountants, suppliers, customers, employees, and business partners. We have to talk, and talk often, to keep the channels of communication open if we expect these relationships to stay healthy.
Here’s another question for your consideration: what kind of conversations should we have with people? Real ones. Conversations where we show we’re actually human. We can do this by sharing something personal at times to bring authenticity to the relationship. I’d recommend using good judgement as offering too much personal information may cause problems. For instance, I’ve personally witnessed the owner of a company overshare their personal life experiences which ended up negatively impacting a business-client relationship. This client threatened to phone the Better Business Bureau if the owner continued with their behaviour. We need to have discretion and tact when speaking with people in the business context. It’s a bit of an art-form but the more you practice the more skilled you become.
We can also have “reaching out” conversations. As business owners we need to take the initiative to contact people in our lives who haven’t heard from for a while.
I’m currently consulting with a business owner who does a fantastic job with the “reaching out” type of conversations. On a frequent basis they contact their bankers, lawyers, accountants, customers, and vendors. They keep everyone in the loop on the progress of the company while building personal bridges at the same time. Pre-COVID rarely a day went by that this owner didn’t take one of their business contacts out for lunch or coffee.
This relationship building business philosophy is paying dividends for this owner. They’re experiencing greater levels of customer satisfaction, fewer misunderstandings and time delays with key lenders/suppliers/vendors and a notable cohesiveness in their corporate executive team.
In retrospect, some of the best business conversations I’ve had were about life and the challenges we all commonly face. Nothing at all about business. We are social beings, who need to talk, discuss life, and seek common ground. If business is only about selling for us, the product or service, or just about money, I think we’ll not only miss the boat on some great relationships but we’ll make our business dealings cold and indifferent.
I would encourage you to take a risk, drop your guard, and strike up a meaningful conversation with someone in your business circle. Try to go beyond the sale or service and build a personal connection with them.
Conversation leads to solid relationships which equals good business.