How to Find Success in Business, One Relationship at a Time

Every person who made it big in the world of business has its own set of secrets to success. Some will say it’s always been about having strong products. Others will say their claim to fame was due to strong marketing.

The reality of business is that there’s no single foolproof way to achieve success. There are just many different things you can do to make a successful outcome more likely, but none of those things will guarantee a good outcome.

What that means is that, from time to time, you can choose to focus on some business activities while putting others on the backburner. And it can work for pretty much any activity, except for one — relationship building.

There’s no Business Without People

You simply can’t remove the social context from business. You can have a manufacturing business that sells its products through an intermediary, and you still have a social aspect because a) you’ll have to deal with the intermediary, and b) you’ll have to deal with the employees.

The truth is that you’d be hard pressed to find a business that’s completely free of the human element. You might even say that the opposite is true, that the whole world is getting connected and that it’s harder than ever to insulate your business from the human element.

And it’s not like insulation is something that would be good for you, or your success in business. If there’s one trait that will define you as a successful businessperson, it will be your ability to develop and maintain networks. Choosing to skip network building, or burning every bridge you cross, is one of the quickest ways to destroy your business career.

Know Who to Work With

But for all the opportunity you can extract from your networks, relationships will also be important when you choose who to work with.

Let’s say you’re launching a startup, and you have a partner and a couple of employees. You’re all working in the same space to cut costs, and you’re pulling crazy hours because you don’t want to hire more people for, again, cost-cutting reasons.

Think about how your days would look like if you were surrounded by people who are competent, and who aren’t annoying or needlessly disruptive. Now think about the same workplace, but filled with people who are either incompetent, or unpleasant to work with, or both. Which one do you prefer?

You can learn a lot about business relationships and hiring policies from Charles Phillips, the CEO of Infor. Phillips rose to prominence as one of the best-connected (and astute) analysts, and later used his connections to seal the deals that made Oracle the giant it became in the first decade of the century.

But when Phillips left Oracle back in 2010 and joined competitor Infor as CEO, he brought key people from Oracle with him to serve as COO and two co-presidents. He made sure that his number twos are people he knows and has experience working with.

He also adapted a curious hiring policy which, as he stated in an interview with FastCompany, lies on two premises — you only hire the people who are good at what they do and who you can imagine yourself having dinner with. That takes care of both the competence and the pleasantness factors.

Relationships with Customers

It could be said that your relationship with your customers is the most important relationship for your business. Whether it’s true or not, there’s no denying that relationships with customers can make or break a business.

In the B2B world it is still customary to meet your customers, or clients, face to face. People still have the time to do it when it’s important, which is why a face to face is often a good way to signal to your clients that they’re valuable to you.

In the B2C world, however, things are a little bit different. You’ll be building relationships through communication and policies that are aimed to increase loyalty, present you in a certain light, or induce word-of-mouth. Your business’ support staff, sales personnel, online communication channels, TV ads — pretty much every point of contact with customers — is used to build a good relationship with your customers.

Why? Whether you’re selling to multinational companies or people in your neighborhood, your customer wants to feel appreciated, and you also want them to trust you if you want to sell to them again. And among people, trust and appreciation are a foundation of, and come out of, good relationships.


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