Last Updated on April 1, 2024 by Lorna Barrow


Some of you just don’t get it. Business relationships are critical to your success. Especially as a Small Business Owner.

So why don’t you actively build new ones?

Why do you consistently treat the ones you have so carelessly?

And why are you acting so surprised that I’m calling you out?

Don’t worry, I’m calling you out with good intentions.

You see, I’ve watched you time and time again either ignore or crush every opportunity to develop those relationships.

Sadly, I made excuses for you.

I wrote off your behaviour as stress. Making too much money too fast. Trying to juggle work with life. 

But recently, while making a presentation on a completely different topic, the entire question of business relationships came up.

The number one question the participants asked me was:

How can we really improve our business relationships?

So yes, I’m writing this post for those who asked.

But equally, I’m writing to help those of you who fail to work on your business relationships, for whatever reasons. 

Beginning right now, I’m sharing 7 simple ways you can, not only improve your business relationships, but  explode your business success as well.

So if you’re ready, let’s get you building…


1. Know the difference between “transactions and “relationships” 

Many of you claim to be building relationships but what you’re really doing is engaging in transactions.

Mark Sandborn a leadership speaker, compares 9 differences in behaviour that lets you know if you’re building a relationship or just making a transaction.

  To help you really understand these differences I have placed them in the table below. 

For example, if your approach or behaviour is to understand a process, you’re just making a transaction.

On the other hand, if your goal is to understand the person(s) in the process, you are definitely building relationships.

Understanding the difference between the two helps you to be sure that you are not engaging in a superficial “what’s in it for me?”  transaction, under the pretense of building business relationships. 


2. Remember people do business with people they know, like and trust

I can’t stress this enough. The fact that people do business with people they know, like and trust is as true for attracting customers as it is for attracting business relationships.

Once you get past the mutual “like at first sight” it is important that people get to know you.

To let people get to know you, you have to take the risk of being transparent.

You have to put some skin in the game.

Let them see you’re reliable. Admit that you don’t do well at public speaking. But don’t lie about your super cool negotiating skills.

For example, my quirky sense of humour is a best seller. And when people get to know that my word is my absolute bond, then trust is inevitable.

So put “know, like and trust” to work for you.

If you do, as you develop yourself and build your business relationships, you will be successful in your work and your life. 


3.  Make a friend before you need a friend…and keep the friend

I’m always advising my friends, colleagues, business associates and even those of you who might be eavesdropping:

Please make a friend before you need a friend.

Here is an example of what I mean. 

There is this person you meet often at events you attend.

You go to a concert and that person is in the audience.

So the next time you see them you nod or say hello pleasantly…and they look right through you.

Not too long after that you see them again. This time they are gushing all over you.

Yes…they have discovered they need you for something or they need something from you.

Sounds familiar to you?

I’m not telling you if to help them out or not. But I am telling you not to be guilty of this behaviour yourself.

Build a business relationship with a new connection just because you like them or you discover you have a mutual interest which you can pursue together. 

Don’t wait until you think they can give you something you want.

 This is the best way to establish how shallow and untrustworthy you are and even if you make a friend, you will not keep a friend.


4.  Mix business with pleasure

Yes…Please…do mix business with some pleasure.

Apart from the fact that your business should be a source of pleasure for you, knowing what is important to your colleagues and business associates outside of business, actually leads to great business relationships.

I learnt this from firsthand experience.

I used to be the all-business-roll-up-my-eyes-at-small-talk type of person. Then one day, I allow myself into a conversation with a receptionist about whether Star Jones had had surgery or not. (I know…)

Much later, I learnt that she had convinced her boss that I was the best consultant for the job, citing “down-to-earth” and “easy to talk to” as her reasons.

During the life of the contract, she was warm, pleasant and extremely accommodating and this was just what I needed.

Now this does not mean you have to read up on every singer or actor and hope you’re asked about one of them.

But you can:

  1. Remember to ask about a colleague’s child or grandchild.

2. Turn up at some of the picnics and barbecues you’re invited to

3. Ask how your friend’s golf game is coming along, at the same time, forgetting to mention that you think he should take up knitting.


5.  Being supportive builds business relationships

We are all busy people with our own important priorities and goals to achieve.

But should this mean that you should be nearly always unable to help out a colleague? I say no!

Look, as much as possible, whenever colleagues ask for my help I give it. You see, helping them solve their problems are important to me.

On the other hand, there are some people who never read the document for you, seldom give the opinion you ask for and as for turning up at your event, next time!

What fascinates me is that these same people, have no problem demanding your time and attention…tut, tut.

So support your colleagues and business associates.

Apart from building good business relationships, what you put out there comes back to you ten-fold.

While I don’t advocate giving to get, those are odds which I am willing to take on my business success.


6.  Don’t be a self-appointed critic in business relationships

Don’t get me wrong. I welcome criticism. But if all you hear is negative criticism, it is the fastest way to destroy business relationships and friendships.

When you criticize everything from the professional advice you ask for from your colleague, right through to hair growing in her nose, it can be draining and counter-productive.

People will start to avoid you and you will find it hard to get any traction when you need help.

So don’t be a self-appointed critic in business or in personal life, because you will not be tolerated forever.

Pretty soon you can find yourself without associates, colleagues, friends and worse of all, meaningful relationships.


7.  Keep your high standards when dealing with colleagues

My grandmother always said:

You can’t take off and put on high standards. Either you have them or you ain’t got them!

This always comes to my mind when I watch business people “take off” their supposedly high standards when they come to deal with other business colleagues.

When you do, you’re being nothing short of disrespectful and ignoring the old adage that familiarity breeds contempt. 

So answer at least 50% of the emails you receive from your business colleagues.

Return at least 32% of the phone calls they make to you which you didn’t take in the first place.

Show up on time for meetings, lunches and other engagements.

This is important to me because when you are habitually late, it tells me so much about you, your standard and values. 

Above all, do not gossip. Apart from derailing any attempt at relationship building, it undermines your own credibility.


Your next “business relationships” steps…

So there you have them, 7 simple ways for you to build business relationships and explode your success at the same time.

It’s sure worth the effort. I know firsthand.

My biggest contract came from a business relationship turned friendship and I didn’t even see it coming.

Most of my business comes from and through my network and I hardly have to look outside of my colleagues and associates for advice, guidance and support.

Now it’s your turn. Go on, give them a try. You have nothing to lose.

To your business relationships success…

7 Simple Ways You Can Build Successful Business Relationships

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!

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