Business Building Tip

by Bill Granda

Since 1991, as consultant, business coach, and advisor with Paradigm Associates, Bill Granda has been helping businesses and individuals improve their ability to overcome obstacles and get results. He engages with key players and teams, particularly those in or approaching important transitions, to develop and execute practical business and transition strategies. Clients have found him especially helpful when they recognize they have to do something different, but don't know exactly what that is, or they know what is needed but aren't sure how to best get it done. Many of his clients are closely-held and family businesses, non-profits, and professional firm owners who put a premium on professional competence and really helping their clients.

I rarely come across anyone in business who doesn't know something about the importance of relationships in growing their business. If you're reading this article, chances are you're one of those who knows something about business relationships. But you also probably know that knowing and understanding and doing aren't always the same thing. So this article is for you if you feel you aren't making the most of your relationships in growing your business.

A key to developing relationships that really work in business building is to identify who and what kinds of businesses you should build relationships with and focus your efforts on with those people. Begin with an in depth look at how business gets done, how sales or deals get done in your industry. What connections need to be made? Who is likely to know people you want to buy from you? Are there complementary industries or professions with whom you can connect to open doors for you and for whom you can open doors?

Once you've done that, look to build relationships with people who will themselves benefit from referring business to you and from whom you'll benefit when you refer business to them. I'm not talking about referral fees or other ways of showing gratitude. I'm talking about a benefit to you and your business from giving a referral or to the referrer's business from giving you a referral.

Here's an example. A CPA firm, a bookkeeping business, an attorney, and an insurance broker have developed close relationships among each other. The CPA firm refers clients to the bookkeeping firm because the CPA firm doesn't want to do the bookkeeping and can't do it cost effectively for their clients. The CPA firm benefits because their clients are happy with the lower cost and because they don't have to build up a bookkeeping staff. The reverse happens when the bookkeeping business refers clients to the CPA firm for tax work or audits. Likewise a referral to an attorney or insurance broker benefits the referrer because it results in a happy client whose problems are solved and sometimes because both areas of expertise are needed to solve a particular problem.

The concept also applies to retail businesses where the business may not even personally know its customers. There too relationships may not be just important, they may be critical. For example an entertainment producer may not know any of the people buying tickets to its performances, but it must have a good relationship with the ticket brokers in town if it wants to fill the house every night.

So rather than shooting your shotgun up in the air while hoping a duck happens to be flying by, identify and target the people who will really have strong business reasons to be connected with you and who you'll have a really strong business reason to be connected with. In other words someone who will really benefit from giving you business and where you'll really benefit when you give business to them. It results in a much stronger, longer lasting, and productive bond than you'll ever get from referral fees, tit-for-tat, gifts, and lunches.