Becoming skilled at building relationships with key groups of people in your business will be of great benefit and lead to profit. By Gary Shotton #000169
By Gary Shotton
Today we’re going to talk about the word “Relationships”. And I’m going to give a definition in the way I use it in business. And then, I’m going to share how relationships are important in at least four different areas of the business, certainly with my employees, with my customers, with my vendors and then with my bank. You need to create, have, and develop good relationships in these areas if you’re going to have any hope of being successful in the business world.
First of all, the word relationship comes from the base word is relate. Ask yourself, “can I relate to people?” You know, when I interact with somebody I want to relate to them by listening to them and understand them, knowing where they’re coming from in their perspective. I can put myself in their position. I want to rearrange the situation so I’m sitting at their chair and they’re talking to me on the same subject. Ask yourself, am I able to relate to this person?
Your Employees – Let’s talk about the realities of relating to your employees. Why is that so important? I’ve seen people and I’ve heard of situations where the boss is clueless about anything regarding their employees. The boss is absolutely treating their employees as if they’re a piece of equipment, a number, with no personal involvement, at all. I don’t think that’s going to take you very far in today’s business climate. I’ve heard of some former Russian block countries where the boss or the owner drove around in a black car with black, tinted windows, and rolled down the window just a little looked out and talk to their workers. That is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about building relationships. Now, there is a limit to knowing too much I think about your employees. I like to separate the business from employee’s personal life. I don’t go digging into their personal life. I am not their personal counselor. I do not try to solve all their personal problems. I have enough on my hands in providing them a great work environment. I will suggested to them, if they will produce a good work habit and create steady income, a lot of their other personal issues will melt away, like marital, children, or even physical issues go away with good/solid employment. We can provide that.
I am not the person that writes the checks, signs the checks, or hands out the checks every week, so I have a little trouble even knowing who’s working for me. We have 60 employees and we have had 17 new employees in this last 12 months. So, I have to work at learning everyone’s first names. So, I write down and learn their names. To me that’s part of relationship. If I have 60 people working for me, shame on me if I don’t know the names of my employees. Now, it may take me a couple times, so I’ve created a little game about it. I tell the new employees as they shake my hand or I shake their hand. I greet them and say, “Hey, I’m so glad you’re a part of our company.” They’ve already watched a “Video of Introduction” from me so as a part of our original welcome to the company, because they watch a video but this is not personal. We all know there is a difference in watching a video compared to me walking up and saying, “Hey, tell me your name.” “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” “Let me tell you a little bit about me”. And then shaking their hand and tell them, “I’m glad you’re here. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to make things better.” Then after that first Introduction, I figure I should know their name, so I tell them, “Now, if I can’t remember your name, it costs me a dollar” and I joke with them a bit. Then many times, I’ll see them a couple days later and I said man, I forgot your name. Here comes a dollar out. And I say, “Tell me your name” and I joke with him a little bit because I hate to spend that extra dollar. They get a kick out of that because they know I trying to not forget their name but, I’m working on it. You should know the names of your employees. Nothing worse in building a relationship to be called, “Bud”, “Brother” etc, when the person should know your name.
Your Customers, What about your customers? Well, at our manufacturing company, I am not looking for a job or an order. In my case, I sell these parts back here and we have relationships with our customer. In my case, I don’t have other salesmen but myself because for me in this business, this would not work for every business, but in this business I don’t really need a third person in the middle between myself and the customer. I have a relationship with them and I meet with them on a regular basis. That could be once a month. That could be once every other week. Sure, I talked with them, sure I email them. In one case they’re quite a ways away so I only meet with them about once every three months or every four months and that’s fine but I make sure my customer knows that I’m listening to them that they can always call me. I have my cell phone on my business card they can call me and when they call me I’m going to respond. They know that I’m going to take responsibility and responsibility means the buck stops with me. I’m not going to make a bunch of excuses. I’m going to tell them, “Hey, we didn’t do exactly what we wanted in this particular case but here’s the steps we’re taking to make sure that doesn’t become a habit.” We build relationships with them. Once again, I want repeat customers. I want ongoing relationship. I don’t want just one job and we try to match our customers with who we are. There’s many people that we start or think about doing work for and we just have to tell them you know we’re not actually a good match for you. Let me help you find another supplier other than myself that would be a better match for you. I’ll never see that customer again but it’s good business to build relationship with anyone we’re in touch with.
Your Vendor – Vendors are who you pay for what they provide for you. Usually it’s everything in our case from metal to to the cutting tips that make the parts here to supplies for the office Whatever it is I think the number one thing in a relationship with a vendor is pay them on time.
Don’t stretch them out. Make sure you know how your limits are and that you have well in mind their financial well-being. If they supply a part supply, to you then you’re obligated to pay them and pay them on time. Maybe it’s not perfect but at least communicate with them. I found years ago when I was in the moving and storage business that I came to a point that I actually couldn’t pay my bills on time. You know what I did? I started communicating with them. I didn’t hide from them. I didn’t ask my wife to call him. I didn’t ask the receptionist to tell them a little fib. I said, I called him up and say, “listen I am responsible for that bill. At the moment, I’m not actually able to pay make that check right now but I am doing everything I can and I will keep in touch with you on a regular basis until we take care of it. That’s relationship. Now currently I’m able to pay my bills quite on time because I have a better business and yet there’s times that I need to build relationships with my vendor. I want to be known in town as a company that pays my bills.
Your Bank – Let me talk about another one, your bank. Wow! We’re in a world where banks are changing employees all the time and I actually bank at one. I bank with the same individuals for more than 30 years because I want a relationship with them. I want them to trust me. I want them to know that I listen to them. I want them to know that I feel responsible to them and if they say no I don’t get all mad. I think they’re on my side. They’re in this with me as a team. Why would I press them to loan me money when they don’t think I can pay it back? I need to be able to convince them and so I’m never mad at my banker or financial institution. I may not like it. I may be a little disappointed but I go back to the shop and I figure out what I’m gonna do to make things better. Most of the time if I can’t pay my bills I’m growing too fast. So, I need to trim back. I need to grow a little slower. I need to be cut something off that’s not profitable. That’s my finding.
Well, in conclusion you know this whole process is where people to people in all four of these areas. Sometimes you’ll hear a business say that we’re business to business. That’s one buy business selling to another business. Another time you’ll hear it called that’s B2B. Sometimes you’ll hear it called B2C that’s a business to a customer/consumer. Well in my terminology all four of these were people to people all the time. They’re not a company. They’re not obscure. People are people and we’re dealing with people not big organizations. Thanks for listening. Please let us know if there’s anything we can help you with. If you have some suggestions on topics you want us to speak on we’re happy to listen to those and help out. Inspiring better business. Thank you.
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