Stephen Covey in his now classic book, 7 Habits of Successful People, talks a lot about business and relationships. He makes the point throughout the book that the heart of the business is about making connections to people. That includes your employees, vendors, business partners, and anyone else that you are in business with.
This fact is evident to anyone who is in business, but it is often easier said than done. How do you, as a business owner and entrepreneur, establish the best working relationships with your clients, business partners, and other business associates? What can you do to ensure that you will be able to make your clients happy and get them to return to your website in the future? How do you connect with the best people to work for you or turn a product into a winning sale? All of these things require making connections with people.
How to Improve Your Working Relationships
Working relationships involve all of the people that you need to make your business a success. This may include your board of directors, your employees, your outsourced workers, the networks and platforms you work with online, your vendors, and much more.
There are some things you can do to improve the relationships you have that keep your business moving forward. No exact answer will work for everyone, but the following tips may keep you focused on the important things that motivate people and help you keep your goals in sight.
Consider the needs of your clients.
Basic psychology tells us that people will react to the way you treat them. If you treat them with respect, they will usually return that favor and be more interested in doing business with you. You will also improve your overall relationship with them if you put their needs first. Remember that, while they do need you, from your perspective, you need them more. That’s because you would not be able to survive as a business if you did not have clients who are willing to pay money for your services or products.
So think about what it is they want or need and tell them that you want to help them get what they want. This attitude alone will go a long way toward showing the customer that you value them.
Earl Nightingale once said, “To be appreciated and valued is one of the most important needs of the human being.” If you can meet this need, you will communicate that you value them and this can pay off big.
Find out what motivates your employees.
Just like your clients, your employees need to feel valued. You should relish in every opportunity to communicate to your employees that they are important to you. Tell them that they are important but also show it. One of the most successful shows on TV today is “Undercover Boss”.” I had the producer of that show check out a script I wrote once. In the show, the CEO or owner of the company goes undercover to work on the lower levels of the business to analyze what is working (and what is not) within the business.
It is a humbling task, and the CEO usually discovers a lot about her/his business that they never knew when they go through this experience. Ultimately, they come out of hiding to present themselves as the CEO, and they meet with each employee that they encountered privately. During this time, they take the notes they’ve made about who the best and hardest working employees are and reward them with monetary prizes.
The best employees have sometimes been given large sums of money for college or to pay medical bills all because they exhibited the qualities the CEO wanted to see. Wow, now that’s an incentive.
You may not be able to afford to give your employees trips to Hawaii or pay for their mother’s surgery, but you can find out what motivates them and create an incentive plan that they will work for and appreciate.
Make work feel like fun.
Google is a good role-model for this. They provide fun time and nap time for their employees (as well as their children) at various times during the day to help them recharge their batteries. They reward their best employees with raises and vacation. They offer contests and sports competitions to keep them healthy and active.
In short, work doesn’t feel like work; it feels like fun. This is a great technique to motivate people to work hard even when they are feeling deflated or tired. When people are worked very hard, they tend to run out of energy and their work starts to decline. But if you can offer them something fun or exciting to take part in, they may find their second wind and keep going!
Put the focus on your customers and business partners.
Everyone wants to feel like they are the most important person in the world. If you act like your customer or business partner is important to you, they will respond in a positive way. Complimenting their work is one way to do this if they are a business partner. Sending the customer a birthday card on their birthday may do the trick for regular customers.
One big motivator is getting something for free. Many online business owners offer a discount or some coupon for showing loyalty to their brand. Offer a free eBook or download that shows the customer you appreciate their business. You’ll be surprised at the results.
Improve your communications skills.
Communication is at the heart of relationships. This is true no matter what type of relationship you are talking about. It is also true in business. If your communication is clear and concise through your emails, newsletters, faxes, and phone calls, your intention will shine through, and you will be able to bridge the connections between even your most difficult clients.
If you find people who cannot live by your terms, then perhaps those are the business relationships that you don’t want in your life. Only you know what you are willing to accept for pay or other circumstances. So decide where you will draw the line and communicate this clearly in all relationships with business partners and employees.
One of the best ways to improve upon your business relationships is to have integrity. Follow an ethical code and stick with it. Demand that your employees do the same. Be clear about your goals and your business philosophy when you first take on new business relationships so that everyone is on the same page.
Offer incentives to stellar employees and even outsourced contract workers when they do excellent work. Reward those who deliver what you need and focus on the needs of your many business partners and individuals.
By creating an environment where people know your values and where you communicate well and keep the conversations going, you’ll be sure to find a balance between being a savvy business owner to one that succeeds with your business relationships. Covey believed that most business people thought business was about products. In reality, it’s about people.
And, like Stephen Covey said in his famous book, if you improve your relationships, you improve your business.