Have you ever wondered if there is a secret to succeeding in any business venture? There are a number of tried-and-true methods that lead to success. Among these are having the right skills, personality, and drive. You may have heard that it is important to build rapport and strong relationships. This may be common knowledge but it is often overlooked, especially at the beginning stages of a business. Whether you recognize it or not, all successful small businesses, irrespective of the service or product offered, have business owners who have one thing in common: the skill of building and maintaining relationships.

Too Busy?

The truth is that entrepreneurs, especially at the start-up phase, too often get caught up in the details of their products or services to notice how critical it is to build relationships with everyone along the entire value chain. This includes suppliers all the way through businesses operations to the end users and customers.

All your business activities are centred on relationships; therefore, relationships are key to building harmonious understanding with every person or group of people you deal with at every process of the business.

How Do I Do It?

Building rapport and strong relationships are not necessarily inherent. The good news is this trait can be learned. Sometimes rapport happens naturally: you “hit it off” or “get on well” with somebody else without having to try. However, business relationships, like any other relationship, require making the effort to build and maintain. This is especially true if it does not happen naturally. Trying to find common ground, developing a bond, and being empathetic will be of benefit to both parties in the relationship.

Be Present

As much as possible, deal with everyone along your entire business operations in person, especially at the beginning stages of the relationship. Always opt for an in-person conversation versus a phone conversation or an email. Make a mental note of everyone you deal with and show genuine interest and concern with every interaction.

Be Real and Authentic

Your authenticity will open doors you never imagined. People on any level easily relate and identify with people who are true to who they are and are a reflection of themselves or their values in any small way. This leads to long and lasting relationships simply because others can trust you. Be professional, but personable; people would rather deal with you than with robots.

Build Trust and Respect

Be reliable and let the other party in the relationship know they can count on you to do what you promise to do. Be respectful of others. Never undermine what matters to others even if you do not see any value. Early in the relationship find out what is important and make it a point to show that you understand why those items are important to them. 

Go the Extra Mile

You will have to give more than you receive. As much as possible try to exceed your employees’, suppliers’, and customers’ expectations. This will always leave a lasting positive impression on these people and they are more likely to, in turn, go the extra mile for you.

When Should I Start?

There is no perfect time to build a great relationship—so don’t wait. Every business interaction is an opportunity to build great rapport. It’s said that “first impressions last forever,” but this can always be changed. You can change an unfavourable (or even terrible!) first impression someone may have of you by genuinely practicing one or all of the above simple strategies.

If you want to be successful in business, you need to make solid, meaningful connections with your customers, suppliers, and everyone around you. There are potential assets everywhere. The truth is that you will never be successful doing it all on your own. Using these steps and making them a big part of your life will pay off in volumes.

Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines says it best:

“It is amazing what doors can open if you reach out to people with a smile, friendly attitude and a desire to make positive impact” — “success in business is all about people, people and people…”