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Relationships to build your business

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Relationships can make or break a business. When it comes to small- and medium-sized businesses, being able to manage relationships is the difference between success and failure.  

Identify relationships

Robyn Henderson, author of The Creative Edge, says networking accounts for 87 per cent of business in the market place. This means current and potential relationships in your field need to be identified and a plan of action for consolidating and establishing contacts needs to be implemented.

Take a blank sheet of paper. First, list all the stakeholders in your business. These can include suppliers, service providers, customers/clients and even family members. In short (though the list most probably won’t be), list everyone and anyone who has come in contact with the business.

Of those listed, make note of the stakeholders you have developed a strong working relationship with and those you have not. Now you’ll clearly see who to dedicate more time to and who to maintain the level of communication with.

A further step may involve ranking them in order of importance; which of these relationships impact upon the business more? A client with a larger account will rank higher than one with smaller jobs. This is not to say that they are less important, just that time needs to be divvied up accordingly.

How to manage relationships

In the world of Web 2.0, genuine personal connections are few and far between. Make an effort to connect: have a coffee with a client, hone a supplier rather than emailing.

“A few good conversations and meaningful relationships are more important than a lot of light-weight contacts, so I learned to really take care of the relationships that are important to me. I don't usually network for the short-term but look to build relationships with people I like, trust and want to do business with,” says Suzi Dafnis of the Australian Business Women’s Network.

Never forget the value of face-to-face communication.

One of the greatest gifts is to give someone your time.

Foster relationships which bring value to your business, regardless of whether that value is economic or strategic. Remember, a good relationship needn’t equate to immediate dollars on the bottom-line of your business.  

How to create relationships

Creating a series of meaningful networks will reap benefits in the long-term.

“It’s not about shaking hands and kissing babies,” says Troy Hazard, former global president of the elite Entrepreneur’s Organisation. “A real network is developed over years of offering help and assistance to others, before you ask the same of them.”

“Do things for others and not just to get something back, but rather to help that person achieve their goals or solve their problems,” agrees Henderson.

Become involved in your industry’s community. Attend business functions and trade shows, meet people, who may prove to be a source of income or business advice. Joining professional associations and networking groups in your specific industry and in the greater small to medium business community, can also be a step towards fruitful business partnerships.

Taking the time to establish relationships, without a hidden agenda, will reap long-term benefits tenfold. Money may make the world go round, but what makes it worth the trip is relationships.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

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Published on: Friday, December 03, 2010

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