Entrepreneurs and business leaders are bold, visionary and independent—but as much as you can accomplish on your own, you can do even more when you collaborate with others. Developing relationships is critical to success in any business, whether you’re building your team, growing your customer base, negotiating with vendors, networking with colleagues, or applying for a business loan. If you’re building or growing a business, these are the five types of business relationships you need for success:
Every business needs customers to succeed, so customer relationships are a given. Most businesses put lots of effort into attracting customers—but once the sale is over, they neglect to maintain the relationship. While you do need to invest in marketing and sales to win new customers, it’s much easier (and less expensive) to maintain the customer relationships you already have, than it is to build new ones from scratch.The best way to build and grow strong customer relationships is to start by providing a quality product or service to customers, and then earn their loyalty by providing exceptional customer service. Be responsive, responding to calls and emails promptly. Be polite, listening to concerns attentively. And show your appreciation to customers, whether it’s a simple “thank you” or a rewarding customer retention program. Customer loyalty programs and customer relationship management systems are both excellent ways to improve and grow your customer relationships.
A happy, motivated employee will work harder for your company, be kinder to your customers and their coworkers, and be more productive in their daily work, resulting in greater profitability for your company. It’s no secret that competitive wages and benefit packages are key to employee satisfaction. However, positive feedback, encouragement and caring support can go a long way toward employee engagement and job satisfaction, too. Make sure you take good care of your employees, listen to their concerns, and provide them with opportunities to grow in their careers, and your employees will become your best allies in growing your business.
When conducting a negotiation, who are you more likely to offer a great deal to—someone you like, or someone who is rude, demanding or off-putting? In business, your vendors provide the important resources you need to stay in business. A great relationship with a vendor can help your business get the products or services you need faster, save you money, give you a competitive edge in the marketplace, and ultimately help both your businesses grow. It’s easy to assume that vendors are just looking to “make a sale,” but it’s important to remember that the people who run these businesses are often just like you—hardworking business owners or employees looking to provide a quality product or service, and grow their companies. Treat them with respect and cordiality, and you will find these can be some of the most rewarding relationships in your professional career.
Are you a member of any local or national industry organizations? Do you attend trade shows, continuing education classes, career fairs or other industry events? Interacting with colleagues can be a great way to expand your professional network, get new ideas, gain more expertise, and make new friends. While many business owners and leaders view their competitors as threats, you may be surprised how valuable relationships with your colleagues can be. Colleagues are people you can learn from, be inspired by, collaborate with, and reach out to when you’re looking for a new employee, or perhaps even looking for a new job yourself. Don’t neglect to create and nurture your relationships with colleagues—you’ll be glad you did.
Lender relationships have the potential to transform your business in a way few other relationships can. A business loan can give you the capital to hire more employees, open a new location, invest in new technology, or explore a new product or service line. Whether you’re new in business, or your company has been in business for years, it’s important to develop a great relationship with a lender you trust.