When you begin to build a business, you'll find that your relationships with others are crucial to your success. Healthy relationships—those that are mutually caring and giving—are necessary for personal success. Everyone needs someone to learn from and share ideas with. Good relationships offer understanding when you fail, confidence when you're in doubt, and celebration as you go through life. They also allow you opportunities to give, mentor, and share. The good news is that building relationship is something we all do naturally. Whether we like it or not, we constantly interact with other people and build bonds with them. The challenge is learning how to do it well enough to get what we want from our connections with others.
Here are 9 relationship skills every entrepreneur must have:
1. Be authentic.
You can't fake authenticity; it's impossible! People can smell a phony from a mile away because they know how real relationships feel. If what they're getting from you doesn't feel right, they'll be looking elsewhere for something better before long (and probably taking their business along with them). So don't try to be something you're not; instead, let people see who you really are so they can get to know the real you. This creates a genuine connection, and you can avoid emotional exhaustion by not being yourself.
"Life is a relationship game. In order to win at it, it's necessary to build mutually beneficial relationships."— Alechia Reese.
2. Provide value.
The best relationships are mutually beneficial. Neither party will feel taken advantage of when both parties have something of value to offer. When you're able to offer something of value to people, they'll be interested in helping you out—and your growth as a business owner will be all the more likely. Be sure to enter all relationships with how you can be of service, not just thinking about what you can get.
3. Talk about yourself less often.
Talk less about yourself and be a good listener. People like hearing about themselves, so listen carefully when someone else speaks. Show interest in what they have to say by nodding or saying "uh huh" occasionally; this tells them that you're paying attention and interested in what they're saying. If possible, ask questions about their interests or experiences; this will help build rapport and make them feel more comfortable around you. To connect even deeper, practice active listening by paraphrasing what people say (for example: "So what I hear is that...") or asking them questions so they will elaborate on their point of view (for example: "How did that make you feel?").
"If I move in silence, only I win. If I teach you the game, we win."—Monique Rodriguez, Mielle Organic.
4. Give compliments freely.
Giving compliments is like giving a dose of sunshine in a cup. There are quite a few benefits to giving compliments to both the giver and the receiver but giving compliments helps people feel good—just make sure the compliment is genuine. Find something about the person you want to build a strong relationship with and compliment them on it. Avoid stating the obvious and try to find something that would be harder to know.
For example, if they've been featured on Forbes, they might've received many compliments already. But if you somehow found out that they spend their Saturdays visiting their grandmother, you can let them know how beautiful that is. Compliment the little (and big) things. And when you compliment them, show genuine appreciation and curiosity by taking a moment to dive deeper. Ask them questions about how they felt and some challenges they've faced, which will help you connect more.
"Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough."—Mary McLeod Bethune.
5. Care about other people's feelings.
It seems obvious but to build strong relationships in business (and in life), you need to empathize with how people feel genuinely. Many entrepreneurs struggle with mental health challenges behind closed doors. Some have made many sacrifices on their entrepreneurial journey; others might be on the verge of burnout. Since many Black and Brown women entrepreneurs tend to be the first in their families to build a successful business, they might not have the space to own and talk about their successes without feeling guilty. So, take a moment and ask how someone feels and listen.
"Building relationships is simply a function of the frequency of touch. Just like in your personal life, you build and nurture relationships over time."—Carla Harris.
6. Nurture your relationships.
Get in the habit of taking action in developing and nurturing your relationships. This means making it a point to reach out, call, text, and stay in touch through social media but most importantly, plan "friend dates". Get on Zoom, or plan to do an activity together. Nothing beats the in-person presence of your presence. It maximizes all of these tips that we've shared and then some. If you notice something unique that they're doing, reach out to them. If you see they're experiencing difficulties, reach out to them. Even if none of those things exist, still reach out to them. Those touch points make a world of difference.
7. Show gratitude often.
Be thankful for your business (all of them) relationships. Be grateful for them privately and publicly. Give your relationships the flowers they deserve now in the present moment. Showing regular gratitude not only helps the person feel appreciated but also makes you feel better.
"Social capital is the new gold. Add value to others, value others, and you will be valued."―Lynn Ujiagbe.
Without trust, there is no relationship. Trust requires clear communication, consistency in behaviors, and vulnerability. This is the cornerstone and foundation of all relationships. You must be willing to be open and share a part of your world as much as the other person. You must be willing to do what you say you will do by being reliable, honest, and transparent. If trust is broken, be willing to repair that relationship by having an honest conversation. The key to building relationships is to be genuine, honest, and open with the people around you. If you're unwilling to do this, think twice about starting a business.
9. Build a relationship with yourself.
For your business to grow and thrive, you must first create a successful personal relationship with yourself. Doing so makes it easier for you to connect with others. This means developing good self-esteem and self-confidence. It also means having strong emotional intelligence and a deep sense of self-awareness. Not only understanding your positive attributes but also your areas of growth.
Building relationships is a crucial part of developing a successful business. There are many ways to approach this—we've compiled some tips to get you started. So go forth, and connect with others. Soon enough, you'll be able to reap the rewards that come along with establishing productive and harmonious relationships.