I meet with successful Entrepreneurs and CEOs every day, and though they have all taken a different path to reach their success, there is one mindset they all have in common.
Highly successful business leaders inherently understand that running a high-growth organization is a collective effort that requires interaction with a range of people: suppliers and potential investors, employees and customers, peers, competitors, public officials, and members of the media.
The world’s greatest business experts – Peter Drucker, Mark McCormack, Regis McKenna and others – have all said the same thing in one way or another: relationships can make or break entrepreneurial success.
The problem is that too often, the CEO or Entrepreneur isn’t the one who owns critical “KEY” relationships. They allow the real connection to be cultivated and managed by other members of the team.
The bottom line is that, in order to protect, nurture and grow key business relationships, it’s essential for the CEO to be at the center of the most important ones. Many leaders delegate or even abdicate these key relationships, which are then developed without their participation. They get comfortable over time with someone else managing the key relationships and, as a result, put their companies at risk should they leave and take those relationships with them.
Instead, CEOs and Entrepreneurs should take it upon themselves to nurture critical connections and get to know the main players in key business relationships. While it’s one thing to make the effort to own the relationship by spending business time with a key customer, it’s another to go beyond and deepen that relationship with a personal connection.
Leaders can do this in simple ways. For example:
- Instead of booking a client to come in at 10 a.m. for a short, half-hour meeting, schedule the visit over lunch.
- Find out what activities the client enjoys outside of work (golf, tennis, hiking, cycling, wine tasting, running, fishing, ) and invite them to connect over one of these.
- To really deepen the relationship, get their family involved by inviting their spouse and kids to participate in a group activity.
- Suggest meeting in person at an industry conference for a cup of coffee, glass of wine or dinner.
- Find out what philanthropic cause they support and determine how you or your company can help.
It’s just like watching grass grow. You can’t see anything happening but one day you wake up to a beautiful lawn. Building relationships and a successful business career is just like that. Finally, people do business with people they like and people they trust. That can’t like you or trust you if they don’t know you.