Behind every ‘solo’ entrepreneur is a massive network of connections, partnerships, and support systems made of up trusted individuals and organizations. No matter how much you value your independent spirit, you’ll need strong relationships to make it in the business world.
Developing these relationships can be tricky, however, despite all the technology at our fingertips. How do you form advantageous connections, and how do you make them last?
Here are some tips and tricks from real business owners on how to create and maintain long-lasting relationships in business, so you can accelerate your success.
It’s one of the first things we learn as kids – treat others how you wish to be treated in return. The golden rule applies to friendship, family, and in many cases, business.
“Building long-lasting relationships in the business world involves making the other party feel special and needed,” said Jordan Smyth, CEO and Founder of Gleamin. “Business partners will take notice when you treat them like their thoughts, concerns, and opinions matter for the overall success of the company. Always show gratitude and appreciation and your relationships will most likely succeed.”
Applying these ancient and simple rules will lead to a fulfilling life and plenty of business opportunities to sustain your bank account in the future.
Give and Take
Another key principle of business relationships is reciprocation. If you bring value to the table in terms of cash, knowledge, or pure effort, it’s only fair to expect something back in return.
“You get back what you put into relationships of any kind, and this principle applies to business in particular,” said Jordan Nathan, Founder and CEO of Caraway. “Offer a ton of value, be a great communicator, and always go above and beyond expectations. This is how you build strong partnerships that pay you back with outstanding ROI.”
You don’t have to be as stringent or transactional when dealing with close business partners, but set boundaries and be clear about what you’ll accept or not.
Keep Reaching Out
The power of a follow-up is never to be underestimated in the business world, whether you’re competing for a spot at a company, working on a sponsorship deal, or writing a guest post for a top publication in your industry.
“Developing long-term relationships in the business world takes follow-up on the part of both parties,” said Jenn O’Hara, CEO of Soba Recovery. “The more you reach out to people, the more you’ll increase your circle of influence and allow for long-lasting relationships to flourish.”
It’s certainly possible to go too far and become annoying, however – know where and when to draw the line.
True to Your Word
Nothing can tarnish your reputation in the business world like failing to follow through on the promises you’ve made. Once you make that mistake, it’s hard to recover.
“A great way to build long-lasting relationships in the business world is by doing what you say you are going to do,” said Darren Litt, Chairman and Co-Founder of MarketerHire. “Having follow through on your words will earn the respect of your coworkers, clients, and customers. This will allow you to develop long-lasting relationships with them that are built on trust and respect.”
You can always put the pieces back together and create strong relationships by regaining trust, of course. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself and learn from the past.
Give it Time
Think about how long it takes for someone to become a close and trusted friend or a lifelong partner. In business, profitable relationships simply don’t happen overnight.
“Business relationships take time to develop,” said Tim Mitchum, CEO of Winpro Pet. “You can go the traditional route of meeting people in person, or you can develop these relationships online through sites like LinkedIn. If using the latter, you can make connections with the connections of people you know. This is a great way to expand your network.”
Rather than trying to rush things in a business relationship, focus on delivering your best work every day – the rest will take care of itself.
Even if you see yourself as the next Steve Jobs, you won’t get far in business without people who you can trust, and who also support your vision 100%. Focus on building a strong core team before you branch out and make external connections.
“Collaboration is a key part of the success of any organization, executed through a clearly defined vision and mission and based on transparency and constant communication,” said Dinesh Paliwal, CEO of Harman International.
Your team will be the backbone of your business until the day you part – choose your people wisely and stay on good terms through tough times.
Being overly judgmental or assumptive about another person might just be the worst possible way to kick things off in a relationship. Put your best foot forward and practice the blank-slate approach every time.
“Developing a long-lasting relationship in the business world can be scary, but remember that these relationships will be the key to your success,” said David DiLorenzo, President of Valentino Beauty Pure. “Start off by letting go of any preconceived notions you may have of the other person and just be you. Allow yourself to be authentic and honest, this will build a solid foundation for the relationship to blossom from.”
Be patient and take the time to learn about the other person, because this understanding will keep things even-keeled and pay off for both of you.
Put in the Work
Think that strong business partnerships happen out of thin air? Sure, you might get some lucky breaks or coincidences here and there, but once the connection is formed, it takes work to maintain.
“A business relationship requires a lot of work from both parties, and it can’t be a lopsided equation,” said Bing Howenstein, Founder of All33. “If you’re not getting what you need from your business partner or collaborator, don’t hesitate to let them go and replace them. Keep your standards high and boundaries firm.”
If your efforts don’t seem to be worthwhile, be ready to continue your search.
Share and Respect
Great business relationships thrive on transparency and mutual respect. Share your goals, your challenges, and your plans to overcome obstacles. Helpful partners will do what they can to get you to the next level.
“Creating long-lasting relationships in the business world requires sharing values and ideas and having mutual respect for each other,” said Randi Shinder, CEO of SBLA. “If you have mutual respect, the rest will follow. Respect is the foundation of any healthy and long-lasting relationship.”
As your business evolves over time, so will the respect and strength of the relationships that underpin every accomplishment.
Focus On Connection
Rather than entering a business deal with dollar signs in your eyes, think about forming a connection first and foremost. This will lead to a more pleasant interaction and better outcomes for everyone involved.
“For you to have a sustainable business relationship, an authentic connection must be formed,” said Chris Vaughn, CEO of Emjay. “Build trust with them by putting their interests first and demonstrating accountability. This develops mutual respect and loyalty, which help to create a long-lasting business relationship.”
If you’re confident in yourself and what you have to offer, you won’t be worried so much about tactics or convincing others to get on board.
Value Your Team
Never take your team for granted, because your progress will be halted by a lack of coordination and communication within your ranks.
“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team,” said Investor and Entrepreneur Reid Hoffman.
This applies to business partnerships with manufacturers, IT providers, logistics companies, and anyone else that keeps things chugging along.
The difference between a business relationship and a partnership really comes down results.
If you work together and achieve great things with an individual or other brand, that’s a partnership worth protecting and building.
“Take pride in the fact that you’re an entrepreneur or owner, but remember that no business is an island,” said Raul Porto, Owner and President at Porto’s Bakery. “Partnerships can propel your company to new heights – or send you back to square one of you don’t put in the effort to build and maintain them.”
If a partnership is no longer instrumental to your goals, that’s fine – time to move on and focus on what’s next.
Bridge the Gap
When you look closely at your network of associates and partnerships, there are bound to be some areas that need improvement. Be intentional with how you network and make connections that matter most at the moment.
“Developing long-term relationships in the business world takes time,” said Dr. Anthony Puopolo, CMO of Rex MD. “One way to do it is to have someone you know very well already introduce you to other business leaders in your field. Their long-term connection can quickly become your long-term connection.”
Networking is a skill that never goes out of favor, so don’t get rusty, especially in the online era.
Look and Listen
What’s worth than a loudmouth at a networking event or a work conference? Unless you’re running the entire show, be professional and listen more than you speak.
“To develop long-lasting relationships in the business world, you need to spend more time listening than talking,” said Fred Gerantabee, CEO of Foster Grant. “If you’re a good listener, not only will people feel more comfortable opening up to you, but you’ll learn more about what works and what doesn’t.”
Speak your mind, but remember to hear others out. That’s just good etiquette, and you’ll learn plenty as well.
They say you should pick your battles, and it’s true – not all are worth fighting. Similarly, you don’t need to build alliances with everyone in your industry. Be selective.
“Find opportunities to create valuable partnerships that benefit both parties,” said Abraham Rahmanizadeh, COO and Co-Founder of Leafwell Botanicals. “In our case, partnering with gyms, hotels, medical practices, and other businesses which desire to sell our products is beneficial for both us and them. Through these partnerships, the other businesses now have something additional to offer, which increases our brand awareness and audience reach.”
You’ve only got so much energy and time in the day to network, so be smart about how you spend these resources.
Be the Initiator
Passivity has never been the key to business success, and it never will be. Become comfortable with taking the first step and reaching out to those who you think are worth the initiative.
“Developing long-term relationships in the business world takes effort and resolve,” said Jeff Brown, President of Big Fig Mattress. “Reach out to people who have similar goals and values and offer to talk shop over coffee or drinks. Follow up with them after the meeting with a ‘thank you’. It’s the little things that go a long way.”
Make life easy for others by steering the ship – things will play out in your favor.
We set expectations for customer and clients all the time, and also when we’re on the receiving end of products and services. These expectations must be established with business partnerships as well.
“One efficient way to build long-lasting relationships in the business world is by setting proper expectations with the people you work with,” said Chris Gadek, Head of Growth at AdQuick. “If expectations are properly set, people will never be disappointed in you or expect more from you. Satisfaction is purely based on setting proper expectations.”
When you know exactly what to expect – and what others expect of you – that’s when great partnerships are formed.
Maybe you’ve enjoyed a successful launch or first few quarters for your business, but if growth is your eventual goal, you’ll need to partner up for greater efficiency and scale.
“Look at your business from every angle and consider how it can be improved with strategic partnerships, because there are bound to be some gaps,” said Shaun Price, Head of Customer Acquisition at MitoQ. “From sales and marketing to customer service, logistics, and finances, build those relationships that will make running your business easier and stress-free.”
Be conscious of ROI with each business connection you make – some will be invaluable, while others just won’t be worth it.
Keep the Momentum
Once you start building partnerships and gaining traction in your industry, it’s an upward cycle of momentum and growth.
Don’t take your foot off the gas, since you’ll need to get the ball rolling all over again.
“For business relationships to last, they must always be growing and moving forward,” said Annabel Love, Co-Founder and COO of Nori. “Once the foundation is built, look for ways to improve the partnership with more projects, more contracts – keep pushing the limits of what’s possible and smash your goals together.”
Nowadays, your business is only as good as the relationships you create and maintain. From product development to marketing, sales, and shipping logistics, you need to make connections and maximize the impact of each one. This goes for your personal network as well!
We hope these tips from real entrepreneurs will prove useful when reaching out to businesses, influencers, publications, or whoever else can help on your road to the top.