Break Down Barriers By Turning Your Business Relationships Into Personal Connections

Relationships are vital in every aspect of your business. Whether it’s with your employees or with clients, communication is key to maintain a long-lasting affiliation. A good business relationship can become a great business relationship simply by creating a personal connection.

As I reflect on the business relationships in my career, it occurs to me that my greatest partnerships were created by breaking down “formal” barriers with personal interaction and communication. But for an executive to successfully create these connections, he/she must invest a substantial amount time and a combination of old school and new school business techniques.

Here’s how:

1. Hit the road.

Revert back to the “old school” version of conducting business and drive to meet your client or catch a flight. Obviously, technology is changing the way business is conducted with email, Skype and webinars, but nothing can compare to dedicating time with someone in person. Unfortunately, this has become a lost art. Quite honestly, the conversations that you share with someone at dinner or traveling together are often ones that simply wouldn’t be discussed over a conference call.

For example, we were having difficulty securing an agreement with a significant customer on their payment terms, so I caught a flight and personally visited their operation. That night, as I was sitting with their CFO at 11 p.m. talking about company culture, I told him that his comments, mannerisms and tone to his CEO reminded me exactly of the interactions of me and my CFO. As the conversation and laughter, continued, we learned that both CFOs had previously been at the same consulting firm. That single late-night conversation created  a personal connection between the two CFOs, and the next day they agreed on terms.

2. Send a text.

Yes, I said it…send a text. In today’s society, sending a text message instead of an email lets people in our lives because it’s a casual form of communication and it typically generates a prompt response. Let’s face it — good or bad, we have our smartphone nearby most of the day. While emails are standard and the normal response time is within business hours, text messages are informal and can reach someone before or after business hours. When you see the conversation grow via text, you see that someone is becoming more comfortable with you and your business relationship.

Although this level of communication isn’t ideal for every business relationship, you can evaluate on a case-by-case basis. It’s fun to watch relationships transform because of a quick text about a favorite sports team, an invite to play a round of golf or checking in because you know their company just closed a big deal. This is an opportunity to take a business relationship to a more personal level. And as an entrepreneur, Saturdays become a lot more enjoyable when your largest customer texts you to find out if you saw the game — and also mentions he’s sending a large order over on Monday!

3. Help partners grow.

All too often, we get caught up in networking to find connections for ourselves, and we forget about our partners. Over the years, I have realized that when I invest time to network on behalf of my partners, there are typically positive effects on my own business relationships.

Recently, I invested a tremendous amount of personal time to connect one of my contract manufacturing customers to one of my international distributors. I was confident the two companies were a great fit, and once they formally met, they quickly realized it was a great fit as well. The feedback and appreciation I received helped build even better personal relationships with both executive teams. When you demonstrate how you value relationships and commit to helping partners grow their business, it helps to break down barriers. This makes a positive impact on your client and creates a new dynamic and improves personal connections.

Remember, people like conducting business with people they enjoy. So, take a few extra minutes to send a text, spend an evening meeting a client for dinner or help connect people/companies that can benefit from an introduction. To date, all of my most valued business partnerships have a friendship component — do yours?