The ‘C’ Word: 12 tips to build business relationships
Do you have a letter or word you associate most with your business?
My chosen letter is C. Not surprising given that my networking business is called Colony (named because an ant Colony symbolises teamwork) and given that my name is Kirsty (ok, not a ‘C’ but still starts with a ‘Cuh’ sound and if I could spell it with a ‘C’, I probably would).
There’s no shortage of ‘C’ words with some good-practice advice for business. Here are a few ‘C’ word tips to help build business relationships.
Are you connecting at a human level? (people buy from people after all).
Connection is the objective of networking and the pre-cursor to prospecting and sales. Solving business problems by connecting people is what I do for a living but solving problems by offering people, products and services is what we all do. Relationship-building takes time but is worth its weight in gold in business. Work towards achieving the KLT factor of connectivity (know-like –trust) and business will follow.
Do you blend business and community?
It’s certainly a priority for me and good business practice. Paying it forward is easy, meaningful and valuable to where you work and live.
Which of your customers, suppliers and associates are you truly dedicated to?
Those who attend my events or work with me privately for business consultancy, marketing and events will get this by the bucket load. Work on prioritising your contacts and deciding who and what you are committed to.
Then there’s your commitment to your business and to yourself – and possibly your career. Are you running a career business or a hobby business? Depending what you want back from your business, you may need to adjust your approach and level of commitment. Do you have limits on your hours and locations of work; do you regularly step back to work on your business not in it; and do you invest in personal and staff development and training. Commitment comes in many forms but should be to yourself as well as the business, its staff, clients and third party contacts.
Are you competitive, collaborative or both?
Collaboration is certainly the ethos by which I run my business and one I’d recommend. I never view other networking groups or business consultants as competition. I view them as associates since one size does not fit all. If you’re not someone’s cup of tea, then someone else will be. Maybe you can solve someone’s problem and build your reputation by referring work out. Or maybe, if you’re lacking in time, resource or skillset, then collaboration can plug the gap so you can still deliver and grow.
What marketing collateral have you developed in your business?
Marketing collateral (i.e. tangible marketing resources such as a website, business card, brochure or banner) is one thing but building reputational and emotional collateral will serve your business longer and should be the driving force of your marketing strategy.
Do you support an annual charity?
Unbelievably, the private sector is the least generous donor to the voluntary sector and yet supporting an annual charity is hugely rewarding – on a human as well as business (and financial level). Many small businesses feel it is the domain of the corporates to adopt a charity to support. I beg to differ. Sourcing benefactors, trustees and volunteers plus offering time and a promotional platform for increased awareness and news-sharing have immense value and are not confined to big business.
Colony has had a fantastic 2018 fundraising for St. Rocco’s Hospice and learning about their work, raising money and generating support and awareness for them. Imagine what would happen if every small business picked a local charity to support. We now pass our fundraising baton to another worthy #Warrington charity – Creating Adventures. I know little about their work right now but I do know I’ve had a relationship with its founder for some time and I needed to know more.
Do you nurture or collect contacts?
In business relationships, just as in friendships, we know (or should know) and value our key contacts – our core tribe if you like (which, incidentally will continually change over time). If you opt for quantity over quality, then applying the 80:20 rule may help you prioritise which contacts count most and where to focus your relationship energy. There are only so many relationships you can nurture at any given time.
8. Circle of Influence:
Do you take stock of your surroundings to ensure the contacts you hang out with align with, if not improve, your aspirations?
According to motivational speaker Jim Rohn “You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with”. Many argue the circle of social influence is much wider than this and with the advent of social media, I’d probably agree. It stresses a valid piece of advice though – hang out in the right place and with the right folk in business.
9. Commandments & Criteria:
What are your abiding guiding principles or values in business?
Compiling your own ‘10 commandments’ can act as a blueprint for how you wish to undertake business and sets down your offering and how you operate. Openly sharing your business values and having a transparent culture will help you attract the right kind of relationship with the right supplier, associate, prospect and client (aka the law of attraction).
What are your criteria – you rules of engagement – when taking on a client? Many of us have been at that point early on in business where we accepted the wrong customer and the wrong type of work, carried away by the excitement of getting a client. Time is a great healer of that mistake. Setting down your minimum criteria, accompanied by all the relevant time and pricing considerations, is an essential task to address to build business relationships that ensure mutual respect that will foster growth.
Here’s Colony’s 10 Commandments.
Are you sitting comfortably?
They say that to really push the boundaries of business and personal development, you need to step outside of your comfort zone. True to an extent, I’m sure.
But, you need to be comfortable in your business, in what you offer, in your skin, and in your business relationships. If you attend networking events for example, you need to ensure you’re comfortable with the environment, with the format and with the people. Do your homework on the group culture and attendees to pick wisely.
How are you with small talk?
Never forget the small talk; it’s often overlooked and under-valued as time-inefficient idle chat, gossip or superficial interaction. In business, small talk is an art and an essential one if you wish to master business relationship-building and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. How many awkward and stilted conversations have you encountered in business which you then labelled as poor networking. When it’s a poor conversation, then there’s no empathy, no connection at a gut level and no mutual understanding. You’re simply left either with a feeling that you’ve just been sold to instead of chatted to – or that the person was a bit of an arse! Relationships are built between people not businesses so think H2H (human-to-human) not B2B or B2C relationship-building.
How’s the work-life balance?
Self-care is one of the hardest things to achieve when running a business in our current 24/7 culture. Taking moments to step back, reflect and recharge the battery is critical but takes practice and courage. The biggest relationship to build in business is the one with yourself. It will be continual, transient and full of self-realisation as you learn about your limitations as well as amazing qualities and successes.
Do any of these C words resonate with your business and if so why?
May you have fun building relationships that build your business.
By Kirsty James, Owner, Colony Networking
Kirsty James is a business consultant who works one-to-one with small businesses on networking strategy and skills training, business development planning, idea generation, brokering connections and signposting to suitable business support groups and local events. She also run Colony Networking events in Warrington, Liverpool and Chester, co-hosts #LinkedInLocal in Manchester and Warrington, and assists third parties to organise their own lead generation events and workshops.
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