Photo by: Adam Grabek (Flickr)
By Nathan Strum
You can never overestimate the importance of good business relationships. In nearly a decade of close contact with a wide variety of business professionals, I have seen even the most competent entrepreneur ruined by bad business relationships. If you want to run a successful business, then you need to learn how to establish strong business relationships and maintain them.
Separate Business and Personal Relationships
We should get the most difficult part about establishing good business relationships out of the way first. In my experience, having business relationships with friends or family members can be tricky. For some people, it works out great and everyone is happy. But I have also seen lifelong friendships ruined by business. If you want to establish strong business relationships, then you and your business contacts have to agree to keep business separate from personal issues. If you do not feel that you can keep the two separate, then avoid creating a business relationship with that person.
Establish Concrete Guidelines to the Relationship
A business contact’s expectations are formulated by your words and actions. Not only do your words and actions need to be consistent, but they also need to be completely understood. If a business contact is only going to be one of many vendors you will be using, then set that guideline right off the bat. Do not allow the contact to think that they will be your only source. You need to establish concrete relationship guidelines from the beginning to have a successful relationship.
Always Follow Protocol
Business is business and personal is personal. If you require purchase orders from your clients, then do not let that rule slide for special customers unless there is an arrangement in writing. If you start dropping protocol for some of your business contacts, then you will create chaos for yourself and them. Remember that you and your contact are not the only people involved in the relationship. If your accounts receivable department needs a purchase order to process an order, then dropping that protocol affects more than just you.
It is not my place to tell you to be honest with your customers. How you treat your customers is up to you. However, you need to always be upfront with your clients if you want to maintain a strong business relationship. If you know a price change is coming and you have been given permission to tell your contacts, then do not hide that information. When you are upfront with your business contacts, then you can never be accused of hiding anything. In the grand business scheme of things, that is more than anyone could hope for.
Stay in Touch
While you are not obliged to make personal calls on your business contacts to keep them in your list, you should stay in touch just so that you always have the latest information from them. Your contact may have someone who needs your services and you can suggest that your contact’s friend contact you. Staying in touch with professional contacts is just good business, for many reasons.
You can have many things go wrong in your business life, but maintaining strong business relationships can help to keep you successful, even when everything seems to be going wrong. Treat your business relationships with the respect they deserve and they will always be your source of professional strength.