As written for Fargo, INC
You made the leap.
It’s time to turn your dream into a reality. You have a vision, you know what you are selling and why people will buy it. Perhaps you’ve been doing it for a while. Regardless of the stage of your business, just like raising a child, one thing is certain – it takes a village.
Long lasting and meaningful relationships are the cornerstone to ongoing success. The tricky part is figuring out how to continually foster the right relationships.
Let’s dig into several different critical relationships:
- Customers are the ones who will buy what you are selling. They need to trust that your product or service will do what you say it does and that it is worth parting with their hard-earned money to make the purchase. Take the time to understand who your “raving fans” are and why. You don’t have to be everything to everybody – figure out how to find profitable customers and perfect that model.
- Vendors are the ones you purchase things from that need to operate, make a product or resell. You need to trust that they will deliver on their promise to you! Are you getting the best value for your money? Are they adding to your success or detracting from it?
- Employees the ones who take care of your customers and your business. We would argue that the culture of your team will set the stage for happy customers. Be patient in hiring and swift in firing when necessary. Cultivate the environment that deliver on your expectations.
- Mentors and business advisors help guide you down the right path by providing an experienced resource for your questions and by asking the hard questions of you. The right mentor or advisor will challenge your thinking and help you see things that are missing or perhaps ignoring.
- Financial advisors whether a trusted accountant, CFO, banker, investment advisor, etc, they will look at the numbers from a different perspective than you and should be able to identify red flags or opportunities. They can provide additional insight as to what the analysis of your financials mean and advise on ways to improve your financial performance.
- Strategic partnerships are the ones you leverage for mutual benefit. What can you do to make their business more attractive to their customers and in turn, how can they help you? Strategic partnerships are often overlooked and can provide the foundation for new opportunities and new markets or even help you “own” a market you already serve.
- Referral networks are pretty much everyone that you know. Do your colleagues know what you do and how it can benefit others? Do they think of you when they hear of someone who needs what you offer? A referral is a personal endorsement of trust in your product or service and can be the most effective marketing tool at your disposal.
- Trade associations provide industry specific knowledge and resources for your business. What you can learn from others who do what you do can be invaluable in growing your business. It can also be helpful in avoiding making the same mistakes that someone else has already done. They are also frequently political advocates for your industry and keep you abreast of regulations affecting your business.
- Support network is your family, friends & faith and are the ones who be there to celebrate the wins and will pick you up when things get hard, which they will. They may also be involved with many of the relationships above.
And finally, don’t forget about your relationship with yourself! Invest the time & effort into supporting your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. After all, if you don’t, no one else will. When you take care of yourself, you will be much stronger and able to take care of your business. When you are at the helm, others are counting on you and your ability to keep things moving in the right direction.
As you can see, your sphere of influence is as big as you want it to be. It may be impossible to foster all these relationships as the same time – pick which one(s) are most important at any given point in time or for a specific goal and work on those. Continually evolve your strategy and pay attention to the people in your circle. Then when you think you have it all under control, flip it all upside down and ask yourself: