Achieving success in business is a long journey, and on that journey, you’ll meet people who will help you along the way. Building relationships are what we do as humans, and it’s vital that we do it in our lives as entrepreneurs as well. Even in the modern business environment that is fueled by technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s ultimately humans who are behind the keyboard and who will ultimately make or break your company. As you work to grow your business, it’s important to not lose sight of importance that human connections play in getting you where you want to go.
Forming relationships with other entrepreneurs, either as mentors or friends, gives you an outlet for your problems and frustrations with people who understand the daily grind of the startup world. Not only can they lend you a sympathetic ear, they can also offer advice when needed on the issues that you’re running into. Having that perspective from someone who has either gone through a particular problem themselves or is removed enough to offer fresh ideas can be invaluable. And that same network might be able to lend a hand at other junctures when you find yourself in need of help, whatever it might be.
The network you’ve build can also help you to meet other people you might otherwise not have met that might be able to help you know or down the road. If you’re trying to get your foot in the door at a company for a partnership or pitch, an introduction through a mutual friend or acquaintance is going to prove more fruitful than a cold introduction over email or phone. Your shared connection can speak to your qualities as a person and an entrepreneur, either explicitly in an introduction or implicitly in the fact that they think enough of you as a friend or peer to make the introduction in the first place. Even if these introductions don’t initially prove fruitful, it never hurts to expand your network, as you can’t predict how the relationships you develop might ultimately pay off later in unexpected ways.
Partnerships are one of the biggest ways in which your relationships can pay dividends for your business. As great as your product might be, it might not meet every need that your customers have, or your sales and marketing might not be able to reach as many of your potential clients as you’d like. Building partnerships with companies that have complementary products allow each to help the other put in offering more to their customers to differentiate themselves from competitors. Those partnerships may be born out of shared interest or even need, but they are built and sustained by a strong relationship between both parties that relies on mutual understanding and appreciation.
As much as you may be getting from your network, it’s important to give as well. You’ve benefited from the generosity of those around you, and it’s only right to display that same generosity when others come to you for help and guidance. Even in cases when you’re getting an ask from someone that hasn’t previously done anything for you, helping as you're able without thought of reward fosters a spirit of collaboration that they can hopefully share with others eventually.
Perhaps the most important relationship you can form is the relationship with your customers. You’re always striving to make your product stand out from the rest, but in cases when it can be hard for buyers to choose between seemingly similar options, it can be the personal touch that makes the difference between making the sale and losing it to a competitor. Depending on the industry and your business model, you have to determine the right level of interaction for your company and product. For example, it might not make sense to have your sales team call every customer or potential customer if you’re offering a SaaS product at $20 a month. However, calls or online chat where appropriate, along with follow-up emails and responsive customer support, can demonstrate that you care about your customers’ business and want to make sure that they are getting the most from what you have to offer.
Business can be transactional at its core, but it is still conducted by humans. It is human connections that help us to grow our businesses through friendships, partnerships and customers, and tending to those relationships and developing new ones is crucial for success.
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