Hello, retail enthusiasts and welcome back to RetailBound’s blog! If you didn’t notice, we took some time off in the last few weeks for the holidays and back to school time for some (like me). During that break, I had a realization about what is important to me.
So, to start this post off, I’d like everyone that’s reading to take a few minutes and make a list of what is most important to you – let’s say the top three things. It could be as simple as being financially secure or spending time with your children. Whatever comes to mind when you think about what really matters in your life.
Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.
Did you do it? Now, ask yourself why are these things important to you?
Did you notice a common theme? According to Steven Covey, who authored “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” what really matters most to people usually boils down to one thing: their relationships. Sometimes relationships can have a negative influence on your life, and if this is the case with your family, visit https://nsfamilylawfirm.com/.
For example, when I did this exercise, one of the things I wrote down as important to me was having a career that challenges me, is enjoyable, and allows me to be comfortable financially. At face value, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with relationships. However, when I asked myself why finding a career with these characteristics was so important to me, I immediately thought of the bonds I have with others. I want a challenge so I can help improve the lives of others, an enjoyable work environment where I could be friends with my co-workers, and to be financially comfortable so I can support my loved ones (or my future family, if the time comes). Ultimately, I realized that the job itself wasn’t what was important to me, but instead was a tool to develop what really mattered: my relationships.
In our businesses, just as in our personal lives, relationships matter. At RetailBound, this message often comes across in our consulting. For example, we don’t focus on winning the contract or making one sale, but instead emphasize finding a vending partner and ensuring sell-thru – where a retailer continues to buy your products after the initial contract. Developing long-term relationships is such an important part of our message because it is an integral part of developing your business.
Michael Denisoff, CEO of Denisoff Consulting Group, explained in an Inc. interview, “Without strong relationships, it is impossible to have success as a business owner… You need to have long-term customers and good vendor relationships that will carry you through challenging times or tight deadlines, as well as relationships with other business owners to share struggles, resources and best practices that can really give you an edge.”
As with any relationship, business connections require a lot of give and take. While there is no set formula on how to create and maintain these relationships, here are a few tips that can help you along the way:
- Don’t let people slip through the cracks – it’s as simple as a phone call, email, lunch, or coffee. Keep in consistent contact with the people that make a difference, and not just when you need something.
- Ask for authentic feedback – it might seem awkward at first, but after every project, ask the people you collaborated with how it went for them. An easy way to do this is to ask for three things you did right and three things you could have improved on. This not only builds your relationships, but also gives you great insight into your business practices.
- Be organized – while you most likely already have a client contact database, Denisoff suggests expanding it to all your relationships, including vendors, competitors, peers, etc. If they’re in the database, they’re important enough to merit a continued relationship.
- Pay it forward – somewhere along the road, someone has given you a helping hand. Don’t always be on the receiving end. Offer to put a peer in contact with the right people, share some of your expert advice, volunteer twenty minutes of your time to work through a problem they’re having. Remember that no one wants to be friends with the guy that only calls you up when he needs something.
- Take notes – it’s hard enough remembering where I put my keys last night, let alone the details of a conversation I had last week. Quick notes will remind you about what things you have in common, where you can help out in the future, or what assets they have that could help you. Try keeping notes in a journal, address book, or your contact database.
- Always, always send a thank you note – personally, I thank contacts twice, once via email within a week after speaking with them, and then again by snail mailing a thank you note. It takes me less than twenty minutes and has always merited a positive response. You wouldn’t believe how many times people have actually thanked me for sending a thank you note!
- Learn to apologize – inevitably, we all make mistakes. Maybe a shipment was late, a price was mismarked, a product malfunctioning. Whatever happened, don’t let the relationship suffer or die off, but instead take responsibility and make it right. Don’t blame other people. Saying, “it wasn’t my fault” won’t fix the problem, and isn’t being completely honest. It happened on your watch, so you need to hold yourself accountable, too.
- Ask what you can do for them – if someone just gave you a great idea or maybe they got you out of a jam, be sure to ask them if there’s anything they need from you. They might not need anything now, but the offer will strengthen your relationship.
- Don’t overstay your welcome – it’s great to ask for a favor, that’s part of the give and take in relationships. However, remember that they have focuses outside of your needs, too. Be sure that you’re not calling them up daily looking for help, or ask them for something that’s way too much of a commitment.
- Keep it real – just like in your personal life, there are people you just won’t get along with, and that’s OK! Act with authenticity and you’ll find yourself surrounded by partners who want to be there with you.
Think back to the exercise we did earlier, where we discovered that relationships are supremely important to us. Now think about all the things you do every day to build, strengthen, and maintain your relationships. Is it a priority to you? Do you make sure your relationships are intact before working on anything else? Covey leaves us with one other piece of advice on our relationships. He says, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent, and not enough time on what is important.” Consider that your relationships help to define who you are, and should be treated with that level of importance.
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