What you find out really early on is that everything you do for your business that includes a party outside of yourself is going to be based on the relationship you establish. Everyone knows that communication is vital to any relationship but it is all the more crucial in business. There’s a couple basic things to cover when it comes to relationships;
Referrals – If you build strong relationships with your customers, they will without a doubt be your best method of growing your business. People like helping people they like. Take for example the big Telecoms in Canada, everyone has a distaste for one company or another. I for one hate Rogers, I spent probably 10 years as a customer, but when a problem arose they dropped the ball and treated me badly. I will literally tell every person I meet never to have them as a service provider because of it. The same idea holds true for your product or service, make sure that you do what you can to keep your customers happy. That can even sometimes mean letting them vent about how terrible your company or product is, but make sure that at the end of the day you ensure that you deal with it, even if you completely disagree with them (agreeing to disagree is totally ok) but have them walk away feeling like you cared about their feedback.
Who You Know – When you go into business you’ll quickly figure out, a lot of it is who you know. Make sure to get yourself out there and talk to as many people as possible. You never know when you will come across someone who will change the game for your business. Even if you aren’t an outgoing person, getting out and meeting new people will help. If you can meet one new person & have a semi-meaningful conversation per day, your network will begin to explode. Like I said earlier, people like helping people they like…so get out there and build your network.
Staff – I’m a firm believer that people are not your biggest asset. The right people are. If you are hiring staff, make sure that you take the extra time to secure people who get your vision, care about your business and come in every day with the goal of making a difference. Many of the best performing companies just simply hire great people, even if at that moment they don’t have a job for them, because they know at the end of the day that person will make a difference. Building strong relationships with your staff will make a huge difference. We’ve all known people who just go into work and mail it in every day, just there to collect a paycheck. Make sure you treat your staff like you want to be treated.
Suppliers – I try to keep my suppliers happy but always keep lines of communication open. Suppliers obviously provide you with the necessary resources to conduct business, but they also serve a couple other functions like securing credit terms (being a reference) and can pass along your information to potential clients. I do my very best to keep open lines of communication, there was a point once where I was going to be late on a payment, my supplier worked with me to ensure no service interruptions because they knew that I would rectify the situation quickly.
I’ve always found it funny when people say “business is all about who you know” like its a bad thing. To me, you are basically stating an obvious fact as the issue when in reality if you took it upon yourself to meet those right people you’d reap the benefits. I’ve personally always felt life is really simple in that regard, if you want to get from point A to point B but need help from a specific individual, just get out there and make it happen. The other hurdle people always throw up is that they dislike networking or feel awkward doing so, everyone does but those who succeed find ways to get over it. Its actually a lot easier to approach networking from the perspective of allowing people to talk about themselves, ask them questions and listen to their answers. This a key skill highly successful entrepreneurs master early on, they have the ability to win people over.
Business is all about who you know