If it takes a village to raise a child, the same is true to raise a successful business. No one knows this better than people who are just starting out.
Not only do you need investors for financial reasons, but you need mentors, employees, vendors, and, of course, customers! That’s a whole village of people right there.
And what does that mean, dealing with people? It means you have to build worthwhile business relationships.
If you don’t, one branch of your business will suffer, and the others will as well.
Want to make sure all the parts of your business relationship machine are working smoothly? Get our tips for better success below.
Types of Business Relationships
When you’re building a business, there are four main types of business relationships you need to create. We’ll go through them below.
Relationship Type 1: Internal Business Relationships
Yes – your internal relationships are essential to the health of your company. You’re not going to attract investors or potential partners if they sense something is off on your end.
As a certain president just said in his state of the union (the politics aside), “Clean your own house first”.
That may mean letting that person go that never measures up to their colleagues. Or it may mean sitting down with them and figuring out why they can’t reach their goals.
Maybe something is going on at home and that’s why they’re coming in tired. Would working from home one day a week help them revitalize and pump up their numbers?
Can you organize for them to come in earlier or stay later, to better match their family schedule?
We can’t stress how important this is. When you take the time to treat your employees as people, they see you as one. And people like people a lot more than people like the vague idea of a business.
We promise that if you invest in someone and they deserve it, you won’t regret giving them some extra time off (or whatever).
Maybe it’s something as simple as getting them a new computer screen or an ergonomic work chair. Those wrist pads for carpal tunnel are less than $15 on Amazon.
Finally, even if everyone in your company is best friends – try to improve just one relationship. That’ll serve you well going forward.
Relationship Type 2: Your Vendors
Let’s say you run a business that needs regular deliveries of plain t-shirts. You make whatever you put on the shirts yourself, but you can’t create the final product without that shirt.
The person or group who provides your shirts is a vendor and they are essential to your business. How do you treat them?
You should treat them as part of your internal team – they are essential to your operation. Make sure you’re paying all invoices on time, being clear with your orders, and being kind if something goes wrong.
You don’t have to take a mistake in stride, but be understanding when you bring it up to them. No one goes into business to make mistakes and make things harder on themselves.
The better you treat them, the better they’ll treat you – and the better products you’ll make (together).
Want to go above and beyond just being cordial and kind? The best gift you can ever give a business is your recommendation.
That could mean leaving them a nice and thought out review online or giving their name out to other businesses. If you do that, they’ll be sure to treat you more like family than friends.
Relationship Type 3: Your Partners/Investors
This is the group of people that are most commonly thought of as “business relationship” partners. But as we’ve seen, they’re not the only ones.
They may be the ones you interact with the most, second to your employees and there’s no doubt they’re important.
Tip #1: The Platinum Rule
There are secrets to making these relationships work in a way that is best for everyone involved. One of those is the platinum rule, which is a little more empathetic than the golden rule we all learned as children.
The golden rule states that you should treat others how you’d like to be treated. But that assumes all of us need the same things out of an interaction.
When you look at the diversity of people and cultures, it’s obvious that that’s not true.
So instead, Michael O’Connor and Tony Alessandra wrote out the platinum rule. It says that you should treat others the way they’d like to be treated.
Aka and these are the authors’ words, “find out what makes people tick and go from there.”
Let’s look at a quick example. You work with a partner, mostly over email. You notice that they reply within an hour of all your emails. That shows that they value quick and efficient communication.
Even if that’s not something you care too much about, show them you respect their values by responding back quickly.
Tip #2 Learn People – Not Names
If you have business partners, take them out to dinner. Learn about them as people, as far as they’ll let you. It’s much easier to build a relationship with Bob the father and business owner, than Bob, CEO of Company BBA.
When you treat your business partners as people, just like your employees, they’ll value your connection more. Maybe that means they’ll be more forgiving if you and your business mess up on a joint dealing.
Or maybe it’ll just mean business proceedings are friendly and more pleasant. Both of those seem well worth a few dinners out, don’t they?
Tip 3: Be Responsive and Give Feedback
Remember in elementary school when you got a good grade on a test and your teacher wrote “super job!” and put a sticker? That made you feel happy, right? And proud?
Why did we ever stop doing that? Telling your business partners that you liked what they did or that they’re doing a great job is never a bad thing.
You don’t need a big shiny sticker, though. It’ll probably come off as unprofessional.
But what about an email like this?
I just wanted to let you know that your employee exceeded my expectations in our last interaction. I’m always impressed with how quickly and nicely problems get solved.
Wouldn’t you, as a business leader, love to get an email like that? Well, sometimes you have to give to get – especially when saying “good job” is so underdone in the business world.
Relationship #4: Your Clients
Finally – let’s talk about the business relationships you have with your customers. If you don’t think of them as business relationships – then you’re not doing your business right.
Your clients see you as a service. They trust you to provide a service and in return, they give you their money and time.
You need to provide that service to them, at the level they expect, with just a little bit more.
How do you do that every time when each customer is different? You need to look at your other customer relationship trends.
What are your unhappy customers saying? They’re actually the most valuable to your business when it comes to learning about yourself.
Do they feel like you don’t ship or arrive fast enough? How can you address that? That’s a part of the service you’re not providing, that they think you should be.
Can you give shorter or more relevant arrival time windows? Deliver some sort of coupon or added value if someone takes too long or is late?
You want to take those bad reviews and turn them into good reviews. Even if that same person never trusts your business again – you should make the change.
That way, down the road, no one ever has the same issue and you can avoid that type of negative review.
Happy customers write good reviews, and that’s how you get warm leads. Need help with leads? Get details here.
Your Relationships, Nurtured
With these tips, we hope you’ll have success in your business for years to come. If you think of each relationship type as an essential part of your company, then you’re more likely to succeed.
That doesn’t mean that all business relationships will be the right fit or that they’ll all be exactly what you thought. Sometimes it’ll be a bad match and you’ll have to regroup.
If you know what you want, follow these tips, and communicate clearly – those instances should be few and far between.
Now that you’re improving your business’ relationship health, why not focus on in-office health next? Get tips here.