University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Confessions of an Entrepreneur: 5 Ways to Build Relationships

Puzzle piece building relationships

January 22, 2019 | By Mark Zweig

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It doesn’t matter whether you are an entry-level employee in a Fortune 100 company or a middle-aged person who owns your own business – your ability to build and maintain relationships with other people will have a huge impact on your success.

There are things you can do to build valuable relationships with your bosses, clients, customers, suppliers, regulators, teammates and subordinates, both inside and outside of your organization. Unfortunately, there are some people who are hesitant to do these things because they think they are manipulative. If that describes you, read no further. You are beyond help. If, on the other hand, you do want to learn some proven techniques that work, here are some thoughts:

  1. Get off to a good start. First impressions are everything. Your body language says a lot. Stand up straight. Look alive. Don’t cross your arms or clench your fists. Do you have a firm handshake? Do you look directly at the person you are meeting? Do you use their name during the conversation or act as if you have already forgotten it? When they hand you a business card, do you take a moment to look at it? All of these things and more are critical to what the other person will think of you.
  2. Show interest in the other person. The best way to do this is to ask questions about them. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. It has been proven that when someone asks questions about the other person, that person will be more likely to have a favorable impression of them. Do it! And pay attention to what the other person is telling you so you can parrot it back in the future. That shows you have a real interest and not just an artificial one.
  3. Be helpful. People like other people who are helpful to them. Offer to help in some way. Better yet, demonstrate you can actually be helpful. Matt Lewis, who became a manager in his family’s significant multiple car dealership business while in his mid-20s, says this is the best way to win the allegiance of older/more senior employees. Go help them do something that makes their day or job better. Doing favors is one way to make people like you.
  4. Show your interest isn’t just transactional. That means you have to call – or text or email (not as good as a call) – people when you don’t want anything from them. Just check up on them and see how they are doing. This is one of the single most important things you can do! No one likes people who only contact them when they want something. Stay in touch over the long haul. I have relationships with clients today that started 40 years ago because I have done this.
  5. Share yourself and self-deprecate. You need to share some of your personal information when it’s appropriate to do so. Common interests. Challenges. Funny things you aren’t so good at. It always helps to be humble and self-deprecating if you want someone to like you. But steer clear of politics unless you have a very, very close relationship and you are 100% certain the other person feels the same way you do.

There is no doubt about it that if you will do these five things, you will have better relationships with people. And that is going to help you be more successful, no matter who you are or what you do for a living!

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Mark ZweigMark Zweig – a leading expert in management and business for the architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental industry – is president of Mark Zweig, Inc., which has been named to the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies; chairman and founder of Zweig Group – named to the Inc. list three times – and entrepreneur-in-residence teaching entrepreneurship at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.