Building strong relationships is an important part of the success of any business, but when you’re a new business owner – or when you’re not an extrovert – knowing how to get started can be challenging. While relationships are complex and every relationship is unique, here are the four basic steps to creating, fostering and maintaining business relationships.
Meet: Being an entrepreneur can be lonely and isolating, especially when you don’t have a network of professionals to help you along the way. The first step to building business relationships is to find the people you want to build business relationships with and meet them. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, going to networking events, chamber of commerce events and other business gatherings can be a good place to start. If you have your eye on someone particular, try asking a mutual connection (either in person or on a site like LinkedIn) to help you with an introduction.
Partner: Business relationships have to be true partnerships – we’re not talking about mentors here. Once the pleasantries are out of the way, talk about why you want a business relationship with this person and what the benefit to both parties might be. Is this a referral partnership? If so, why should that person trust their business reputation to you? What can you offer in return? Partnerships are two-way streets and you have to be ready to meet in the middle and prove your worth, especially if you’re new to the industry.
Build: This is where the rubber meets the road. Once a relationship has been established – either formally or not – it’s up to you to build that relationship. Send referrals their way. Introduce them to people who might help them grow their business. Do what you can do foster the relationship as much as possible. If you were the one who initiated this relationship, the ball is in your court to build it when you can without being too pushy or forward.
Maintain: Like any relationship, a business relationship takes commitment and energy. You don’t want to spend all that time fostering a relationship with another business leader just to let things wane, but it’s also important to remember that the people you have relationships with are busy too. Find ways to stay connected without taking up too much time – put a note in your calendar reminding you to send that person an email or ask them to meet for coffee.
If you need help finding ways to connect with other business owners or even marketing yourself as a good partner, your local Growth Coach can help: https://www.thegrowthcoach.com/find-a-coach.