But after survival phase, you need to find a way to manage growth of your business. Growth is more likely to follow relationships, than sales. So here are three relationship tips that are worth thinking about:
- Customers. Build relationships with your customers, even if they are not your biggest ones. This takes time, but need not be expensive. You don't need to take them out to lunch, or send little gifts with your business name on. A quick unexpected phone call, a personalised email, or some timely information can be very effective. Be clear that you want a business relationship. Always talk about them first, ask a question, try and find out at least one thing you did not know before and don't be afraid to ask directly for a referral. But most importantly, know their history! Make sure you know what business you have previously done with them, how long they have been a customer, keep phone notes, emails and other communications handy and part of your customer records. If you can demonstrate that you know your clients, they will respect you for it. It is clear that if people respect you, they will remember you and refer you.
- Your team. Your team are both your frontline brand and the key to efficiency! It is much harder to find and develop good staff, than it is to keep the good staff you already have. So how do you develop good relationships with your staff? Empathy, good humour and patience are probably most important. Remember that everyone is not like you (probably a good thing), and learn to appreciate and leverage the relative strengths in your team members. But equally important is to stay organised and clear in your communications. Most people don't mind being asked to do things at work, as long as the process and instruction is clear and the outcome is recognised. Setting up simple workflow will help to keep people organised. Providing all team members with clear instructions, and a simple interface to report on outcomes will help keep everyone happy and will also help you manage those situations where things don't go according to plan!
- Yourself and your family. Running a business is hard work and almost always eats into your personal time. This is normal and acceptable, as long as you love being in business in the first place. But always remember why you have gone into business and what you want in your life when you have sold the business or retired. Ultimately your business should work for you, not the other way around. If you do not have good systems in place that automate your workflow, keep your records in place and keep finances under control, then you will waste a lot of time chasing your tail. Typically this is the time that eats into your personal life. So if you care about yourself, support yourself with systems that free up your time.