Being a small business owner, the relationships I and the company develop are the back bone of our survival. Whether it is with a service provider, employee, business partner or even a strategic connection ensuring these relationships are developed and maintained is essential to ongoing growth and survival.
When I started working for myself I would have seen building relationships as strength of mine. I am sure my friends would have agreed and had described me as an approachable person that has always made friends easily. I have also been lucky enough to have long lasting friendships, testament to the fact that I am still best friends with two girls I went to kindergarten with. So in business when it came to making strong relationships I thought it was a given that I would flourish.
On the whole I can say I have made some strong working relationships. Although, last year I was faced with some challenging relationships and situations, some of which I am proud of the way I managed through and some I can truthfully say I become too emotionally involved and lost sight of the bigger picture.
On reflection I worked too hard on business relationships that were only meant to be short term or not a good fit and gave up on some that could have been longer term or a better fit for our business. I definitely fell into the trap of establishing business relationships with people I would like to be friends with instead of who the business was most compatible with.
With the aim of learning from me experiences and taking a more objective view, I have come up with a list of 10 ideas I am going to focus on when establishing and managing my future relationships:
- Take a strategic approach – is this relationship going to add value to both parties involved and how will it assist each party achieve their business goals
- Share common ideas around business values and philosophies – I have learnt the hard way that if you are not working with someone who shares the same business values as you, it is really difficult to establish a strong relationship.
- Trust and transparency – being transparent about what you expect from your relationship assists with creating trust with your partners. Creating trust obviously takes time, by meeting and managing expectations it does grow.
- Establish the rules and boundaries – work together to set strong measurements to ensure a clear path of relationship development.
- Understand that time frame of relationship – you must always respect the business relationship you are dealing with but the time spent on cultivating a relationship over the long term as compared to the short is obviously different. Being aware of how long you will be working together is important.
- Communicate honestly – be honest about the contributions you are able to make or if you believe that some goals are unrealistic or you are unable to meet time frames. Also, be honest about how the relationship is evolving and whether you each party is benefiting positively from it.
- Be adaptable – nothing is perfect all of the time so being adaptable to when things change is imperative. If needs be, review the measurements and boundaries set, so you re-define expectations.
- Try new ideas and be creative – come with new ways of working together or doing things and work together to
- Work with people that challenge you and have skills that complement yours – sometimes it is easy to work with people that agree with everything you put forward, when in fact you need someone to challenge your ideas and expand them.
- Create value – work with people you are able to create value for and they for you. This way both of businesses flourish.