Beyond providing quality goods and services, good business is about creating and managing relationships. Getting too comfortable with how you navigate existing relationships can affect their longterm success. Failure to maintain the same level of respect and care that you offered in the beginning can reflect a lack of regard and make the other party feel unappreciated. Acting on assumptions based on past performance can also get you into serious trouble. Business relationships—just like personal ones—must be held in high regard and nurtured if they are to flourish.
Think about your current business relationships. On a scale from one to 10, how would you rate them? How would you rate your contributions to their success or failure? How can you improve? An honest personal assessment can help inform your behavior and keep you from ruining long-term professional relationships.
Consider three of the top reasons that business relationships go sour and how you can avoid falling into the trap:
1. Making assumptions. Just because you’re very familiar with a business colleague or client, don’t assume that the strength of your relationship (or prior dealings in a specific area) will be sufficient to impact a current decision or potential opportunity. Simply put, don’t make assumptions about anything. As far as you know, circumstances may have changed drastically. They may not have the same relationships, resources or pull they had this time last year (or last week for that matter!). And by all means, do not take liberties by making critical decisions (offering resources, making promises, signing agreements, etc.,) based on someone else’s anticipated approval or participation. Uninformed decisions reek of haste, disregard and unprofessionalism: They make you look bad and will definitely call your relationships into question.
Additionally, the nature of your relationship or the favor you’re attempting to garner may not merit the support you seek. You may have even overestimated the reach of your relationship. Ouch! Finally, remember that your big idea and enthusiasm is your big idea and enthusiasm. Don’t expect that others will be compelled to move them forward—especially without checking the temperature first.
2. Connecting only when in need
No man is an island to himself; I get it. But, if you make a habit of ignoring connections until and unless you need something—people begin to take notice—or as we say in law, judicial notice. No one wants to feel that they are being used and if they do, believe me, helping you will be the very last thing on their priority list. If your relationships really matter to you—it’s better to keep them relevant by nurturing them on a regular basis. Consider sharing your own good news or checking in to see how they’ve fared on a recent project. Or, perhaps expressing your appreciation for the connection or congratulating them on a recent accomplishment. If you are unable to do any of these—it’s probably not a good idea to reach out when you’re hemorggaging need: looking for the perpetual ‘hookup’ via leads, favors, money and other undeserved professional trinkets.
3. Creating artificial scarcity
It’s one thing to ask for professional favors. It’s quite another to deny the same to others—especially when there is plenty to go around and others have generously shared opportunities with you. Insecurity often dictates this behavior and when discovered, it can be quite off-putting to those who expect better of you. If you have done the work and are competent and confident in your area of expertise, no one can rob you of opportunities that are meant for you. The inverse it also true. Many well-meaning professionals fall victim to this cardinal business sin. Don’t be that person. Stand on the merits of your work and give others the freedom to do the same. After all, you should be your biggest competitor.
Avoid these three pitfalls and continue to enhance your professional relationships by treating others with respect and consideration, which will ultimately translate into better business for you in the long-run.
To your success!
Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, www.wordsmithrapport.com