Photos by Paul Flessland
President & CEO
Dakota Certified Development Corporation (CDC)
You have a vision, you know what you’re selling and you know why people will buy it. Regardless of the stage of your business, just like raising a child, one thing is certain: It takes a village.
Long-lasting and meaningful relationships are the cornerstone to ongoing success. The tricky part is figuring out how to continually foster the right relationships. Let’s dig into eight different critical relationships.
8 Relationships You Should Always Be Fostering
Customers are the ones who will buy what you’re selling. They need to trust that your product or service will do what you say it does and that it’s worth parting with their hard-earned money to make the purchase. Take the time to understand who your “raving fans” are and why. You don’t have to be everything to everybody. Figure out how to find profitable customers and perfect that model.
Vendors are the people from which you purchase things that you need to operate, make a product or re-sell. You need to trust that they’ll deliver on their promise to you. Are you getting the best value for your money? Are they adding to your success or detracting from it?
Employees are the ones who take care of your customers and your business. I would argue that the culture of your team will set the stage for happy customers. Be patient in hiring and swift in firing, when necessary. Cultivate the environment that will deliver on your expectations.
Mentors and business advisors help guide you down the right path by providing an experienced resource for your questions and by asking the hard questions of you. The right mentor or advisor will challenge your thinking and help you see things that you’re missing or perhaps ignoring.
Financial advisors—whether a trusted accountant, CFO, banker or investment adviser—will look at the numbers from a different perspective than you and should be able to identify red flags and opportunities. They can provide additional insight as to what the analysis of your financials mean and advise you on ways to improve your financial performance.
“The things you can learn from others who do what you do can be invaluable in growing your business.”
5. Strategic Partnerships
Strategic partnerships are the ones you leverage for mutual benefit. What can you do to make their business more attractive to their customers and, in turn, how can they help you? Strategic partnerships are often overlooked and can provide the foundation for new opportunities and new markets or even help you “own” a market you already serve.
6. Referral Networks
Referral networks are pretty much everyone you know. Do your colleagues know what you do and how it can benefit others? Do they think of you when they hear of someone who needs what you offer? A referral is a personal endorsement of trust in your product or service and can be the most effective marketing tool at your disposal.
Trade associations provide industry-specific knowledge and resources for your business. The things you can learn from others who do what you do can be invaluable in growing your business. It can also be helpful in avoiding making the same mistakes that someone else has already made. They are also frequently political advocates for your industry and keep you abreast of regulations affecting your business.
7. Support Networks
Your support network is your family, friends, and faith and are the ones who will be there to celebrate the wins and will pick you up when things get hard, which they will. They may also be involved with many of the relationships mentioned above.
And finally, don’t forget about your relationship with yourself.
Invest the time and effort into supporting your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. After all, if you don’t, no one else will. When you take care of yourself, you will be much stronger and able to take care of your business. When you’re at the helm, others are counting on you and your ability to keep things moving in the right direction.
As you can see, your sphere of influence is as big as you want it to be. It may be impossible to foster all these relationships at the same time. Pick which ones are most important at any given point in time or for a specific goal and work on those.
Continually evolve your strategy and pay attention to the people in your circle. Then, when you think you have it all under control, flip it all upside down and ask yourself, “Whose village am I a part of?”