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Relationships are the most important part of building a business.
I would argue that relationships are even more important than revenue because strong relationships and strong performance go hand in hand.
Now before I start preaching on relationships in business, I will insert a disclaimer: I’m not perfect! I’ve had my share of relationships that have gone sour, and to say I’ve learned a lot along the way would be a huge understatement.
Contrary to what many people believe (even the many acquaintances I know), I can be very guarded in my relationships, and that guard is a huge giant now in my business relationships. It wasn’t always this way. There was a point where I would literally spend entire days just helping other people, saying “yes” to every request that came across my desk, and fearing what people would think of me if I couldn’t fulfill a request.
Now I know that keeping my guard up and protecting my energy allows me to give the best of myself in the relationships I have with this community and my clients. When I drain my energy doing things I really don’t want to do, for people I really don’t want to do things for, I deplete myself from the relationships in my life that matter the most. Other than my family and close friends, the most meaningful relationships I’m always working on building are those with my clients, employees, and community.
You + Clients
The way you manage your client relationships could make you very successful, or make you broke. The latter is what almost happened to me in my early stages of business.
I gave so much of myself to my clients, and I failed to set boundaries on my time and the scope of the projects I would work on. The client always got a lot more than we had contractually agreed to, usually without appreciating the extras, and making those exceptions soon led to unrealistic expectations. There were a few people I worked with that made me feel bitter, and I never ever want to feel bitterness like that again in my business.
My top tip for client relationships: Train your clients.
That’s right, train your clients. This is meant in the most loving way so that everyone is on the same page regarding expectations of the work you’re doing together and the relationship right from the beginning. After those expectations are set, my heart is wide open and I’m all in.
You + Employees
The relationship between a founder/manager/boss and their employees is a hotly debated topic in some of the mastermind circles I’ve been part of. What’s too close? What’s not close enough? What’s inappropriate? My team is my business family, and when someone new joins the team, I’m all in right from the start.
You have to trust the people you hire. Always get on a call, preferably video, before hiring someone. When you have that face-to-face conversation you will likely know in your gut whether the person would be a good fit or not. When I’m interviewing someone, these are the red flags that will likely result in the candidate not getting the position:
Red flag #1: Late showing up
If someone shows up late to the interview, the chances of being hired are slim. Of course there are emergency situations that come up, and in that case an advance notice is appreciated. Being late for no good reason shows a lack of organization and enthusiasm for the position.
Red flag #2: “I really just want to work from home.”
Since we work with a lot of other business owners and people virtually, we get a lot of applications from people looking to be able to work from their home. In interviews, I have sensed from some people that working from home is viewed as easier than their other gig, and that’s not the kind of attitude I can deal with. Anyone who even remotely hints at the fact she just wants to work from home, and doesn’t care about the company or mission, is not considered.
Red flag #3: Knows little about your company
I always ask questions about our company and mission to see if a candidate has done their research. It still amazes me how many people don’t care enough to learn about a company they are applying to work with. If a candidate knows little about my company, I care little about that candidate.
My top tip for employee relationships: I’ve learned to not listen to all the contradicting opinions out there on this subject and rely on my intuition. I advise you to do the same.
You + Your Community
She Takes on the World Inc. is a social enterprise. I want to be clear: social enterprise does not necessarily mean non-profit, even though that’s what many people assume. We’re a for-profit company focused on sustainable and scalable revenue that maximizes our profit so that we can use portions of that profit to impact the three philanthropic pillars we focus on: entrepreneurship, education, and empowerment.
For example, with the success of The Conquer Club and The Concord, my intensive mastermind, we were able to help build The Conquer Academy in Tanzania this summer. The opening of this school was one of the happiest days of my life, and I can’t wait to visit next year. Projects like this are our “why” and the reason we work so hard to continue growing this company.
My top tip for community relations: Find a way to play your part, and use your business to give back in a way that feels in alignment with your personal and business values.
One of the best pieces of relationship advice I’ve received came from being a student of A Course in Miracles. The course talks about how no relationship is an accident, and each gives us a series of lessons we are meant to learn whether it be a relationship in our personal lives or our businesses.
Each relationship is one giant mirror, so look carefully at the reflection you’re seeing. (Click to tweet!)
Now I want to hear from you: What’s your top piece of relationship advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Disclaimer: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.