One of the biggest commitments you will make when it comes to running a business is the ongoing need to build relationships.
With the kind of work we do, it is unusual for someone to book you for a project when they know nothing about you.
With residential clients, they may have heard of you via a recommendation. Or at the very least if they’ve found you through Google they will have checked to see whether you have a number of positive testimonials or reviews.
And with commercial clients, often you will already have a relationship with someone at the point where they ask you to quote for work.
So how do we keep these relationships going, and keep building new ones, all while delivering work for our clients?
It’s all about consistency
The reality is that the art and science of building and maintaining relationships has to become part of our day-to-day work. And it doesn’t need to be seen as a chore.
Many of us end up running a business because we enjoy our work, not because we dreamt of being marketers or sales people. But the business development side of things goes with the territory, so it makes sense to get good at this part of running a business.
The dreaded networking
Some people hate networking and see it as a necessary evil or perhaps even a waste of time. But done right, networking can be enjoyable as well as a good way to bring clients on board.
Having run Super Structures Associates for the last eight years, here are some of the strategies I’ve developed and things I’ve learnt about building relationships in business:
Choose your networking groups wisely
It is easy to waste time at the wrong kinds of groups, so be selective.
Networking is like marathon training. You can’t just show up on the start line and expect to have a good race. And you can’t start training for it a couple of weeks before the event. You need to put in the hours with regular training runs. Networking is similar in that you have to show up consistently and build relationships over time.
Keep in touch
Following up with the people you meet networking, and then staying in touch with them is key when you’re developing new relationships. Drop them an email, give them a call, meet them for coffee and introduce them to contacts you know who could be good connections for them. I have a goal of meeting two people for coffee each month, and this ensures I’m regularly getting out of my usual environment, having interesting conversations and building relationships.
Expand your horizons
Networking isn’t only about going along to business-focused groups. Can you chat to people at the gym or the running club or the golf club? What hobbies do you have where there are connections to be made? You never know what others around you do for a living, and they (or someone they know) might need your services now or in the future.
Make the most of social media
As well as talking about yourself on social media, boost others as well. What goes around comes around, and people are more likely to like, comment on and share your posts if you do the same for them. And if there’s more activity on your post that gives it greater reach and means it’s more likely to get seen.
Enter your business for awards
Not only is an award a great accolade for your business if you win, but you never know who you might meet at the awards ceremony itself, even if you don’t go home with a trophy.
Be open to new connections
You can meet potential future clients anywhere. So whether you’re catching a train or a plane, or sitting in a corporate reception area, or waiting at a taxi rank, be open to meeting people and striking up a conversation. You never know where it might lead.
Meanwhile, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.