Business is business, or is it? Today companies have become more and more enamored with technology and ways to make things faster and cheaper. Now, I’m all for being efficient and saving money, but there is one area where technology can’t take over… relationships!

Behind every business, there are people. More and more it is about who you know and not what you know. That’s why these relationships have become so necessary to cultivate. Now, you may be thinking that takes a lot of time and time is just something you don’t have a lot of these days. Believe me, I understand. However, not taking the time to invest in these relationships will hurt your business.

Here are 6 relationships all business owners should have (in no particular order):

  1. Mentor – I can’t say it enough, mentors are one of the most vital pieces to the puzzle. Having a trusted relationship with that person that has been there before can keep you from going mad. There will be days where you will want to throw in the towel, and they will remind you that it is all part of the process. They understand because they have been there. The wealth of knowledge they possess and share, will shorten the learning curve and help you get to where you want to be.
  2. Vendors – Vendor relationships are critical for a business to run smoothly. Let’s look at a product-based company. Where would they be without their product manufacturer? I can tell you, nowhere. While not all companies are product-based, vendors serve an essential need to keep your business running. You may think because you are paying them, it should not be an issue, but that is just not true. You need to nourish these relationships just as you would any other. They can make or break your business. Vendors are oftentimes unappreciated in their positions, so a little can go a long way.
  3. Employees – While not all companies have employees, those that do generally consider them the backbone of the company. If you don’t have employees, you may have interns, virtual assistants, or even contract labor. Again, all are relationships that need to be nurtured for best results. Consider doing weekly check-ins to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs right. One benefit that could help you both is providing learning opportunities, whether it’s tuition for college classes or sending them to conferences. At the very least, make sure they feel appreciated. They will work harder when they know they are being valued.
  4. Clients/Customers – This is a given in business, but you might be surprised at how often this relationship is forgotten. Communication is key when dealing with clients and may be the difference in saving and losing a client when times get tough. Clients expect excellent customer service and will leave to find it somewhere else. While at it, don’t forget those potential clients. Communication and follow up is most important during this time. They want to know they are making the right decision and with a company that will take care of them. Staying in communication is a crucial factor in that. Not to mention, if you don’t follow up, you almost never get the client. Be that one that stands out!
  5. Network/Resources – Networking has become the way to do business. Why is that? It creates relationships. Finding those groups with similar goals to your own can produce lasting relationships and resources for your business. It’s not just about finding clients when you attend but creating a network that can help you grow your business. However, again, you must work at these relationships. Visiting once and picking up a business card that sits on your desk for 6 months does nothing but make your desk cluttered. Stay in touch with those you share interests with and work together.
  6. Coach/Mastermind – While not a mandatory relationship to have in business, most that have these relationships will tell you it is an essential part of what helps their business move forward. It can be lonely being the CEO/business owner of a small company. Everything falls on you, and it can get overwhelming at times. Having a strong relationship with a coach and/or mastermind group can keep you going when you want to quit. They can provide support and encouragement when needed, but also give you a sounding board for challenges and help generate new ideas. The collaboration process is powerful when fully utilized.

Relationships are an essential part of life, both personally and professionally but they do require effort. Put some time and energy into them, and they will pay off. Technology has made keeping in touch easy, so there is no reason to fall short. It doesn’t always have to be about business. When you share other interests, the relationship can grow stronger. Trusted relationships with people will only make you and your business stronger.