When you start your business, you may search online or join a program run by an accelerator to learn about all the basics of running a business. You will get trainings or find articles about building a product, making a business model, designing a go to market strategy or scaling your businsess. Many of the startups I have worked with, learn these concepts and start applying them quite fast, but why don't they succeed?
Because they forget about people!
Without people, no startup would have a team, customers, partners, mentors or even investors. And some of the best engineers, designers or business people who become entrepreneurs and build startups fail hard at utilizing their most valuable resource, people!
The easiest place to practice this is in events, trainings or accelerator programs you join. These activities are where there are lots of likeminded people who may become your customers, partners or friends who understand the difficulties of running a startup.
The first and simplest thing you can do at any event is to reachout to other people. If this is a Zoom meeting, share your linkedin page and tell people you would like to get in touch with them. If it is an accelerator, ask facilitators and program organizers to introduce you to other startups.
Try to learn about what people do, their skills, and their interest domains. You may think "How would these be meaninful relationships if you are asking everyone these questions?". Well, the answer is that these are basic actions you can take to learn if you would like to build genuine relationships with people or not.
Most times we are so busy thinking about our own needs and expectations from our relationships and network that we sabotage our chance of building sustainable and productive ones. This is why it is important to try things in reverse, once you got to know people, try to learn if there is anyway you can help them. Learn if they have any challenges that you may be able to help them solve or introduce them to someone else that can solve it for them.
It is much easier to request someone's help if you have already helped them and when there is a mutual relationship existing. Even in business, most people don't like to feel like they are just gateways to resources or things you need.
Building trust with your customers, mentors, and potential investors is perhaps the most important part of your relationship with them. Building trust relies heavily on the promises you give, and how you deliver them. It is also affected by the people you already have who reference you and support you.
To build trust, always be honest! Honesty, means that you don't mislead your customer or mentors, and your always set the expectations by sharing the reality of your capabilities the way they are, don't make promises you don't know if you can keep.
*Small note: Being strategic is always important, don't overshare information either. If you don't want to share an information about your team, business or product always be honest with it and open to evaluation.
Consistency, is another aspect of your relationship with customer and mentors that matters as it signs whether or not you can be relied upon. When a contact is introducing you to their network, or someone from your customer company is negotiating with their managing group, they need to feel safe with the risk they take. To show consistency try to be accessible, set routines for the people you meet, inform them about progress regularly and commit to your promises.
Last but not least, is to communicate! I can't even begin to count the number of times I have seen startups lose the support of their customers, potential investors or partners because they have had communication problems. Keeping a reliable communication could be as simple as organizing weekly or monthly emails informing your stakeholders about the latest related developments.
With your customers, it is crucial that they are also aware if there are challenges in your delivery of the service. Customers expect you to deliver, but they are also aware that you may face challenges and may show tolerance when possible. By miscomunicating or not sharing challenges when they can cause delay in delivery, you basically sabotage your own reliability and trust.
With your stakeholder, it is important that they know about your progress on a regular basis so that they can interviene or help you when you need it.
There is a lot to talk about when it comes to a topic so important, but undermined like relationship management in entrepreneurship. And the points in this post are only a few points to begin with, let us know if you are interested and maybe we can go more in depth on relationship management with customers, inside the team, with mentors, or investors.
Wishing you good luck in building a great business!