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Building Strategic Relationships in Business

You are the company that you keep. The people we surround ourselves with rub off on us and help shape our lives – that’s a fact. No matter how grounded or strong headed you are! As an entrepreneur, surrounding yourself with the right people can help you achieve your goals and grow your business. But who are those people…and how do you connect with them to build strategic relationships in business, or a referral network? Your girl is about to break it down. 


Positive or Negative 

When my kids were growing up, I always used to remind them (as much as they hated it) – you’re guilty by association. You are influenced consciously and unconsciously by the people you hang around. Other people view you by the people you surround yourself with. I wanted them to understand that if they hung around with kids that had bad habits or were engaged in self-destructive, negative behavior, there was a high chance that they would be pulled into it. 

It’s my belief that in every relationship, people are either lifting you up, or pulling you down, depositing or taking. So, which is it? It’s important to be conscious of this. How do people in your life right now affect you energetically, emotionally, and spiritually? Remember, it’s a two sided coin. You are also lifting people up, or pulling them down, taking or depositing. Practice awareness of your affect on others. Are you a negative nelly? Check yourself.

Sometimes it can be a mix of both, not just one or the other pulling/lifting or depositing/taking. It’s not always so black and white. In this situation, you want to look for whichever is greater. What is the majority, and keep checking in with this. As our relationships change, so can this dynamic. 

When it comes to your business, the same applies. You want to surround yourself with positive people who lift you up. This is the starting point for building strategic relationships and a referral network that can help you slay your goals. 


If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”– African proverb 


Why Build Strategic Relationships in Business? 

Entrepreneurship can get lonely. Building a community of positive professionals is a way to feel more connected and even find valuable mentorship and advice. Running your own business is also a lot of work. Leveraging people power can help you to work smarter, not harder. Plus, accepting help from others creates an opportunity for you to be of service and give back – creating a reciprocal relationship that grows and deepens with your mutual success. 

For instance, let’s say that you want to connect with a certain big fish client. If you have a large network, you can put the word out for help. The larger your network and the deeper your relationships, the more likely you are to be connected with that client – personally – instead of that cold call or email that gets intercepted by their assistant. 

Relationship marketing works because it’s a way to get in front of a very warm audience. It’s like being invited around through the backdoor, rather than knocking on the front. As I like to say, it’s about people and possibilities

This is one of many examples, the strategic relationship isn’t just all about the referral, it is so much more!


How to Build Strategic Relationships

The first step here is to get clear on your shit. You need to know yourself and your business. What you do and why you do it. Who is your target market? What are your goals? What do you want out of a strategic relationship? If your answer is simply “more business”, dig deeper. Think more specifically. When you are clear, you will attract people who are clear, too. 

When evaluating a person for a strategic relationship, ask yourself: do they play in the same target market pool? What resources or connections do they have that could help you? Do you share similar values? Do you feel like you have something that could benefit them? Start by thinking about how you can help them. 


It’s not what you got, it’s what you give. – Tesla 


Remember, a strategic relationship is a give- give dynamic. But this doesn’t mean it has to be “tit for tat”, or referral for referral. Maybe one person in the relationship gives more referrals, but the other gives in a different way. Maybe it’s mentorship, advice, access, or support. The key is that you are both actively working together to get each other more of something…business, knowledge, connections, employees, etc. 

Some key words I like to keep in mind for strategic relationships are: 

  • Clarity 
  • Consistency 
  • Communication
  • Agreement 


Common Mistakes People Make With Strategic Business Relationships 

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people (myself included) make some major faux pas when it comes to building strategic relationships in business and giving/receiving referrals. The major ones to watch out for are: 

  • Not giving feedback on referrals. 
  • Not being clear on your who/what/why.
  • Not educating the other person about your business and what you are looking for, not giving them “the tools” they need to help you.
  • Poor or lacking communication. 
  • Focusing on just one strategic partnership and not growing new relationships (putting all your eggs in one basket).


Where to Find People 

Ok, so now that you know what to look for, you’re probably wondering…where do I find my people? There are so many options here. Networking groups (paid or unpaid, in person or virtual), your business neighbors (if you are a brick and mortar business), community events, and social gatherings to name a few. Look for businesses that compliment your business, for instance, when I ran my own security company, electricians made great referral partners for me. 

I recommend starting with the people you know and working your way outward. Begin with a simple conversation with them and see if they are in and you both can win from this new direction and actions.

Finally, don’t forget about your competitors! Many businesses ignore or (even worse) bad mouth their competitors. Forming a relationship with your competitors can actually be an asset to your business. 


Quick story: 

When I was running my security company, I knew about another security company in town. Let’s call them Ace Security. People would often ask me for opinions on this other company. Were they good? What did I think about them? I had numerous chances to talk trash. But I never did. I built them up and said good things. (Which I knew to be true because I’d done my research.) 

Then, one day, I got a cold call. Some guy asking about my pricing and services. Then he asked me about Ace Security, and I said what I always did – good things. Then he started cracking up. It was the owner of Ace Security. From that day forward, we started a strategic relationship where we looked out for each other. 

Forming relationships with your competitors is all about having an abundance mindset, rather than a scarcity mindset, aligning on values and having some humility. There is enough business for everyone. That’s the world I prefer to live in. 


That’s a wrap! 

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and are feeling inspired to get out there and build some strategic relationships! If you need more help, I’m always here. Drop me a line or book a call with me to learn more about building strong relationships to help your business grow.

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