It is no secret that relationships are important to our lives. They help us think outside the box, challenge our assumptions, and grow as individuals. When relationships are nourished, the rewards are fulfillment, contentment and happiness. But what happens when you apply this concept to a small business? Every successful entrepreneur has a network of supportive relationships that contribute to the success of his or her business. These key relationships range from personal to professional and they each play a special role in the entrepreneur’s journey.
When a network of relationships is too diverse, it can stretch the entrepreneur too wide and stunt his or her own growth. That is why focusing on quality and quantity matters to ensure the relationships can have proper attention. After all, not all relationships in business will have as much impact as having a focused, intentional network that is aligned to the entrepreneur’s objectives.
Here are five key friendships every successful entrepreneur must keep in his or her circle to grow a business.
- Your mentors: Mentors can come from many different backgrounds and play a significant role to provide your business with critical advice to help you grow. A mentor can be a formal engagement like hiring a business coach, or informal like an elder relative who has more years of experience in business. Use mentors to help you maintain your motivation and focus, and call on them as needed to achieve your goals.
- Your customers: When starting a business, treating your early customers like friends will feel natural. Try to maintain those initial customer contacts close as they can help you with feedback to improve your service or product over the years. There is nothing more valuable than your customer’s feedback.
- Your strategic partners: Your strategic partners are other organizations that are within your same industry and help you expand your knowledge or customer base. Some strategic partners can include chambers of commerce, business trade groups and more. Try to be very intentional and practical in your approach when developing strategic partnerships. When done wrong, they can lead you away from your business plan goals.
- Your team: Your team is a valuable resource to nourish as they are the front line of your business. Make sure you take care of your team by ensuring they feel included in decisions and are compensated fairly. Your team can include your paid staff, banker, lawyer, insurance agent, volunteers and more. Anyone who has a stake in growing your business is a team member. Make sure to take care of them.
- Your peers: Fellow entrepreneurs can serve as a great sounding board when times get tough. Having entrepreneur friends in different industries can help you think creatively about how you approach your own business. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when others are applying sound strategies that you can also replicate. A peer network is a great tool to expand your own knowledge as an entrepreneur.
Cultivating these relationships takes time and care. The most important thing to remember about building a network is to make sure to leverage and reciprocate these relationships. Avoid developing relationships you know you cannot maintain. Keep your focus on quality engagements with these key friendships; like strength training your muscles, these relationships become stronger over time.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor, and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
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