When you’re starting a new business, relationships are everything. It doesn’t matter how great your idea is, how much talent is on your team, or how much funding you have – if you don’t have solid, functioning relationships, you are going to struggle.
Relationships are so important to your startup because they can form the foundation for every aspect of your business. Your network can be instrumental in helping you find leads or team members, for example. A good relationship with the manager of your bank can help you secure the financing you need, while staying friendly with others in your industry can pave the way for partnerships that will help you grow. In short, without mutually respectful, solid relationships, achieving your goals will be harder than it has to be.
That’s why it is surprising that so many entrepreneurs don’t put relationship-building first — and do so many things that are so detrimental to strong partnerships. Even when you have little in common with someone else, and don’t have any interest in pursuing a friendship with someone, from a business standpoint it’s always better to have a cordial, respectful, and productive business relationship. Therefore, if your business is struggling — or if you just want to get your business off on the right foot after you finish business school — consider whether you are making any of the following mistakes, and take steps to correct them.
1. Behaving Unprofessionally
Unprofessional behavior can consist of anything from bad hygiene or telling inappropriate jokes or stories in business environments to playing the blame game or losing your cool when things go wrong. Even if you are comfortable with the other person or the group, that’s no excuse for ignoring the business setting and sharing stories of your raucous night out, or for yelling at an employee in front of someone else.
Doing so will give you a reputation of being a loose cannon — or even worse — and others will think twice about working with you. From the moment you begin your online MBA program, cultivate a professional image and maintain it in every business situation, or whenever there is the potential for you to meet business contacts. Save your wild and crazy side for your personal time.
2. Making Demands
In any relationship, personal or business, unmet expectations are the most common cause of conflict. When another person fails to meet your expectations, you’re likely to be disappointed, angry, hurt, or frustrated, and that can hurt the relationship.
However, it’s important to consider whether the expectations were reasonable in the first place, or whether you have set up an impossible standard or made a difficult request. Being demanding, and expecting another person to cater to your every whim and need, is the fastest way to destroy a relationship. No one wants to work with a tyrant, so remember that you will get further by making polite requests, working together to create a mutually agreeable plan, and giving the other person an out if they can’t do what you need them to.
3. Rushing the Relationship
When you’re on a first date and the other person immediately starts talking marriage and kids, that’s usually a red flag — and that first date is the last. The same principle applies in business relationships. Creating a working relationship or partnership takes time, as both sides need to develop trust in each other, learn more about each other, and consider the benefits of the relationship. Rushing in and being pushy — asking for leads right away, for example — will not result in a strong relationship.
4. Failing to Reciprocate
One-sided relationships are rarely productive or happy ones. If you are constantly asking for help, but never doing anything for anyone else, don’t be surprised when you discover that you don’t have very many good relationships. There may be times when you need more from others, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out to offer others your assistance or being willing to lend a hand when asked. The whole point of business relationships is to work together to create a stronger enterprise, so give to others as much — or more than — as they give to you.
5. Legal Issues
Finally, not handling legal issues regarding your business relationships correctly can lead to major consequences, not only for your relationship, but for your business as a whole. For example, not drafting a binding contract when appropriate can lead to misunderstandings at the very least, and significant losses at worst. You need to have a mechanism in place for assessing the legal issues in every relationship, from business partnership and customer contracts to determining when a non-disclosure contract is in order. When you do, the parameters of the relationship are clearly defined, and there’s less of a chance for trouble in the future.
Avoiding these mistakes won’t guarantee that every business relationship will be successful, but doing so will limit the possibility that your business will suffer.