Establishing and conducting business relationships is a common-sense activity that often gets distorted and confused into a power struggle or battle of wits. No relationship can succeed if there is not equality and mutual benefit at its foundation.
The driving force in relationships between equals is frequent, open, honest communication. Suppliers looking to win new clients or cultivate existing ones are fighting a losing battle if they try to manipulate, outwit or control to get what they want. The same is true in the reverse.
So, if you’re looking to hire great employees, work with ideal clients and be the go-to provider of your services, look first at your communication style. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I honest? Seems like a no-brainer, but honesty isn’t just speaking the truth. A great acronym for real honesty is T.H.I.N.K. (Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary and Kind). Brutal honesty is not what we are after in our relationships. What we are seeking here is an ability to say what we need to say in a direct manner, without dodging and intimating or indirectly addressing, hoping someone will get the hint. Speaking this truth early ensures everyone is on the same page, eliminating festering resentments or misunderstandings, and allows everyone to stay in solution mode.
- Do I ask for what I need? Asking for what we need acknowledges our essential worth and ensures that we don’t turn0 ourselves wrong side out for a situation that doesn’t work. It also admits that there are times when we can’t do it all and need help. This isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of sanity. Asking for what we need (payment, information, cooperation) acknowledges that not all clients are good clients for everyone and not all suppliers are created equal. It’s just as important, however, not to ask for the unfair or impossible because that is not a need. That is greed.
- Do I know when and how to say no? Many businesses proudly proclaim an “our answer is always yes” philosophy. That’s a great attitude, but it’s meaningless if you don’t understand the equally liberating and powerful “no.” “No” gives us the freedom to end our workday and be with our families. “No” ensures that we are not taken advantage of. “No” leaves room for greater attention and success where you say “yes.” “No” means others will value and respect your “yes.”
- Do I express gratitude? Sounds corny, but everyone craves acknowledgement and appreciation. Your clients do. Your employees do and so do you. If you take time to thank your clients for a great event, write a personal note to the new person or just send an email with some information that person might find of interest, you’re letting them know they matter. In business, as in any relationship, this is where you build bonds that endure and put credits in the virtual bank that are there when you make a small error, or even a big one.
- Do I stay connected? Silence in business relationships is not golden. In fact, it’s often the root of most broken business relationships. Silence means poor communication and festering misunderstandings. Frequent communication ensures everyone involved in a project knows where things stand. It’s even the saving grace if a project is off-schedule because at least it ensures everyone has time to react and work on a solution.
Connection also means being visible in your business community, networking, sharing your knowledge and expertise. By giving back, we also get to receive the respect and appreciation of others and, more often than not, it spurs our own personal and professional growth.
Next: MBEC B-4 — Project management