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How to Build Business Relationships That Last

Ask for Feedback

Communication is the cornerstone of every successful relationship. Your business depends on a network of suppliers, customers, and lenders, and if you want their support and their business, then you need to keep them satisfied. Be brave enough to ask for feedback from your business partners. Encouraging constructive criticism is the single best way to maintain healthy professional relationships, and if you listen with an open mind to what your partners and peers think of your business, then you may even get some sound advice for free!

Even if you disagree with what you hear, never directly contradict the feedback you receive. Simply being attentive and respectful is enough; there is no need to correct a client or supplier for being honest.

Be Proactive

Smart business owners know that in order to build better relationships, you need to pay attention to your clients’ every word. Keep a record of your relationships, write down names, dates, and financial data, as well as any pertinent personal information. This takes time but it pays dividends. Using your notes and the knowledge you accumulate, you can improve the visibility of your business by paying personal attention to each and every contact in your network.

Of course you want to be as professional as possible whenever you are acting as a representative of your business, but don’t be afraid to forward links or articles to your contacts that you believe will be of interest to them personally. The more willing you are to reach out and respond to the individuals in your network, the stronger and more profitable your relationships will become.

Never Make a Promise You Can’t Keep

Your credibility—and the credibility of the business you own—depends on your honesty and consistency. When you keep appointments, pay back debts, and fulfill expectations, your relationships will naturally mature and grow stronger. The old maxim still holds: actions speak louder than words.



Marshall Walker Lee graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan's Honors College with degrees in Writing and Philosophy. As a freelance writer and designer he has developed branding strategies and programming for J. Walter Thompson, Nike, the Kellogg Foundation, Spike TV, Sony Films, and General Motors. He is the co-founder and director of Poor Claudia, a 501(c)3 non-profit publishing enterprise based in Portland, Oregon.