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Keys to building great business relationships

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

I read an interesting article recently by Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn where he wrote: “Opportunities do not float like clouds. They are firmly attached to individuals. If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for people. If you’re evaluating an opportunity, you’re really evaluating people. If you’re trying to marshal resources to go after an opportunity, you’re really trying to enlist the support and involvement of other people. A company doesn’t offer you a job, people do. Opportunities flow through congregations of people. Those with good ideas and information tend to hang out with one another. You will get ahead if you can tap the circles that dish the best opportunities. In fact, it’s how people have gotten ahead for centuries.”

It was interesting to read how somebody who has made a fortune through online social media to point out (the obvious) that it takes in-person, face-to-face effort to build real business relationships. And, in this give-and-take world, the priority for building those relationships has to be on giving. People can see right through the taker only.

In “Business Relationship Building Skills – Benefits & Tips for Success,” author Kalen Smith writes about some ways to help building great relationships:

• Keep up with people. It sounds basic, but we’re starting to forget how to do it. You are going to have to maintain your relationships. If you don’t talk to someone for months, you’ll fall off their radar, or they may not immediately jump at the chance to help you when you finally reach out to them and ask.

• Build trust. Never take advantage of people. Don’t even let them think that you’d do so. When you are willing to forego your own interests to help someone else, they know they can rely on you. Do the right thing and be dependable, and you’ll see your relationships grow stronger.

• Network. The ability to network is the key to building successful relationships and you have many options available to you. I am a member of my chamber of commerce, a rotary group, a nonprofit board of directors, and a business incubator. However, networking doesn’t have to be this formal. You can strike up a friendly conversation with someone at the gym. As long as you are engaging with other people, you are actively networking. Even if you aren’t much of a people person, you can put yourself out there a little bit so that you can make some great contacts.

• Show an interest in others. Pretentious people who talk about themselves all the time don’t get very far. Smart people know that an early step to gaining respect and building a relationship is to show interest in other people.

• Work hard. People want to invest in someone who is going to provide results. You might need to show them that you can deliver before you can expect them to have your back or put in a good word for you. When someone asks for something, give a little more. Deliver early and take initiative to help in ways you weren’t asked. It takes effort to build relationships with bosses, colleagues, friends, and family, and you might have to be the first one to do a favor.

• Focus on giving. Similarly, many people want to build relationships so that they can have someone to help them out when they need it. Try to have a less Machiavellian attitude. Always think about how you can help people in your network. They’re far more likely to return a favor than they are to go out of their way for you, especially early in your relationship.

• Focus on quality, not quantity. People want to make an impression, but not every contact has the potential to turn into a relationship. A mentor once advised me that the best goal at a networking event is to get just one good business card. Follow up with anyone who you may have a quality relationship with later.

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The Barn Nursery & Landscape, 8109 Route 31, Cary, will host a multi-chamber mixer from 5 to 7 p.m. today. Plan on attending to strengthen your relationship building.

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Behind every great man, there is even a greater woman. Novelist Isabel Allende once said, “You only have what you give. It’s by spending yourself that you become rich.” Joyce Dwyer was constantly giving and spending of herself. People always mentioned Bill Dwyer as a force of positive change and that is true, but always by his side was Joyce. Thank you, Joyce. This community is a much better place because of you. I am only sorry that I am out of town and cannot pay my final respects but comforted knowing that you’re once again by Bill’s side.

• Gary Reece is president of the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce. Email

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