Relationships in the business world are more about how well you know people than just about who you know. It’s great to be able to name drop now and again, but if your contact barely knows more than your name, is he/she really an asset to you?
Being a small business owner, it’s easy to be consumed by the day-to-day of your trade. But don’t let your everyday tasks let you lose sight of the valuable resources you have worked to plant and cultivate—your professional network.
The Need to Reach Out
Remember that friend who you meant to have lunch with, then she never called, then you forgot to call, then two years went by? Yes, that friend. Don’t let your business relationships be that friend.
In today’s ultra-connected society there is no excuse not to stay in touch with contacts. Take time during all the emails you respond to or all the tweets you send out to reach out to those in your network. Not necessarily every day or every week in some cases, but make continued connections a priority. Maintaining relationships is just as much your responsibility as theirs. Whether personal or professional, relationships take work. Lack of attention to your network garden can cause your connections to wither and fade.
The Importance of Stewardship
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stewardship as the job of being responsible for something. In resource development, stewardship refers to the process of cultivating donors—getting to know their histories, their interests, their preferences—in order to maintain a strong relationship.
Birthdays, personal details (i.e. baby on the way, new puppy, Braves fan), and other business notes are key details that can assist you in reaching out and maintaining your valuable relationship. If you keep business cards, make notes about the contact on the back. If you keep all your contact information online, add this information into your database. Such knowledge is extremely valuable in the making of small gestures.
The Power of Small Gestures
In the South, hospitality and acts of kindness are expected courtesies. While they may seem antiquated in today’s fast-paced society, do not underestimate the power of small gestures. A handwritten note can go a long way to strengthen a relationship. Personalization (gleaned from your stewardship efforts) is key in standing apart from the form letters we all receive. The recipient feels special because you took time out of your busy schedule to recognize and remember him/her.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a personal note, whether as a business contact or patron? It gives you a warm glow. So, let’s admit it, your mother (or grandmother, aunt, etc) was right. Writing those thank you notes really is important.