Forging strong alliances with others in your industry, maintaining good relationships with employees, and gaining the trust of your customers are all important goals for small business owners. They can also be hard to accomplish when you’re working to grow your business.

How to Improve Small Business Relationships

Have a strategy – In his book, “Duct Tape Marketing”, John Jantsch stresses the importance of identifying your perfect customer, the focus of your marketing efforts. This is a method of strategic planning you can apply to almost any part of your business. Having a strategy in place to deal with things like marketing, production problems and employee challenges will help you deal with them better when they arise. Anticipating quality control issues when you add a third shift allows you to get ahead of potential difficulties. Having that edge will help you deflect some problems and deal with others more effectively — and diplomatically. Competence and grace under pressure are both admirable relationship building qualities in a business owner, and strategizing your approach to management challenges will help you acquire both.

Participate – Whether you elect to sponsor a local soft ball tournament or join a committee evaluating the best “green” production methods for your industry, when you become part of the process, everyone benefits. Business is people, and the more linked in you are, the easier it will be to get the things you need, like a heads up about the next big change or innovation, or recommendations for streamlining or expanding your processes. The respect and gratitude of your community and peers is worth the investment of time and energy. You are positioning yourself as a responsible leader, regardless of your company’s present size.

Take ownership – Small businesses are a handful, and new (and experienced) business owners make mistakes. The way you handle bumps along the road says a lot about you and either encourages people to respect you — or not. Your employees, customers and competitors are watching, and being a decent loser by taking ownership of your failures as well as your successes is an important business strategy. When your internal policies flop, you have quality control issues, or your last big idea turned out to be a clunker, remember the buck stops with you, and no one likes a sore loser.

Play a long game – Chances are you’re not going to be an overnight sensation, or if you are, it may take five or ten years to position yourself for success. When you accept the fact that there are going to be struggles ahead, for a while anyway, you’ll weather them better. An approach that builds a solid foundation where customers, employees, and the community all benefit from your efforts is the best way to grow strong relationships.

Communicate – Being a good communicator may not come naturally, but it’s critical to your success. Good communication involves, encourages, and inspires. It strengthens relationships and sustains them. If you can only do one new thing for your small business today, find a way to start communicating your message:

  • Define your niche with effective marketing.
  • Tell your employees where they stand by conducting regular meetings, sending emails, and creating company newsletters.
  • Share information about your company via press releases.
  • Maintain an active presence on the Internet by creating a compelling web site, mobile site and social media accounts.

Being the boss is about building a bridge to the people and resources you need to make your business succeed. To develop stronger relationships, join in the discussion by making your voice count in your industry and community, be a dedicated, patient planner, and be as gracious in defeat as you are in victory.

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