When running my previous company, staying in touch was crucial to my business. For three years, we never spent a penny on advertising, rather, all our business came through referrals. We used various email campaigns for which our only expenditure was to our bulk email service provider. Current clients, former clients, partners, vendors, etc. – all of whom provided not only a steady (overwhelming, at times) flow of incoming high-value opportunities, they were also my avenue of talent acquisition, business development, and back-office services. It completely makes sense of course; we live in a world where everything is becoming increasingly commoditized, rating sites can become stale, inaccurate, or corrupted, so our sphere of influence becomes all the more key. We were one of the dozens, maybe hundreds, of web development firms in the region, but a recommendation from a past client that we were the best in our game set us apart. At the same time, it allowed us to properly score incoming opportunities, based on who they came from. Come to think of it, I never accepted a client that came via anonymous websites (read: my own website). So relationship management was a core aspect of my role as founder. Fast forward to 2012, where I’ve now transitioned to co-founder and CEO of Contactually, an early stage, venture-backed startup. Relationship management now plays not just a core part of my responsibilities, it’s absolutely live-or-die to so many different aspects of the company.
Here are 3 tips on how I managed to maintain great professional bonds with the people I worked with:
- Make your opinions known, but don’t be rigid on them
This is one aspect that every founder agrees upon. As in any relationship, it is important for entrepreneurs to be honest about their work relationships as well. Dr. Hitesh Doshi, Chairman and Managing Director, Waaree Group, said that it takes a dedicated amount of time to build good and lasting relationships. As much as it is important to build relationships to run a successful business, it is equally important to nurture and maintain the same. “To continue that one has to maintain transparency, clarity, honesty, and respect for the opposite party,” he said.
- Take your point across effectively
More often than not, entrepreneurs are looking for their peers or mentors to validate an idea they are working on. It’s often from these discussions with others in the ecosystem, that an idea’s execution strategy is planned. So, while networking it’s important to not withhold but share your views. Gaurav Gupta- Co-founder and CEO, MyLoanCare, said that being open to sharing your views and connecting with like entrepreneurs and industry leaders in industry forums can be a big avenue for new business ideas and opportunities.
At the same time, it’s also important to be open to criticism and take it as feedback for your product. Sanjay and Naina Parekh, founders of EUME said that founders should be open to feedback and creative criticism just as easily as one would be to encouragement. “For any entrepreneur or business, it is essential to listen to what your consumer wants and engage with them regularly to let them know they’re valued. To build and maintain any lasting relationship one needs to facilitate open communication, it is the key to success,” they said.
- Patience is the key
Another virtue that is crucial to maintain work relationships is to be patient. You have to work on them over a period of time and not always expect results right away. For example, if you have met an investor at an event and exchanged greetings, don’t always expect a meeting to be set up immediately. Connect with him/her on social media (preferably LinkedIn) and engage in conversations. Hiren Shah, Founder, and Chairman, Vertoz said that maintaining good business relationships is a continuous task, which involves winning the trust of your external and internal customers. “During this process, one’s interpersonal as well as entrepreneurial skills are put to test. Sustaining and strengthening these relationships calls for nurturing them by investing time and energy. Stay true to your word and honor your commitments,” he said.