3 for 3: Building Business Relationships (Infographic)


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In 2007, the Harvard Business Review studied leaders and their approaches to networking. Three forms of relationships emerged: operational, personal, and strategic. While the ways we build these kinds of relationships have changed over the past eight years, individuals and business still rely on their professional network to develop and grow.

In 2016, we have instant access to data about almost anyone, and building relationship networks has never been easier. However, because of this, it’s easy to find yourself lost in a sea of connections. While it’s important to foster relationships that can help you grow personally and in your industry, how do you determine where to invest your time? What are the most important relationships to build?

We asked three people we admire to discuss answers to these questions.

Using Cold Technology to Create Warm Human Connections

How can you build a network using technology and still create personal, meaningful relationships?

Mike Muhney,Co-Inventor and Co-Founder of ACT! and CEO and Co-Founder of Vipor CRM suggests information gathered from social media should “foster authentic relationships” and act as a “springboard for a real-life relationship.”

Echoing Mike, Forbes writer Natalie Burg answers the question this way:

“As it turns out, the answer to all of the complaints about the evolving workplace wasn’t to abandon technology for a more human way of working, but to evolve technology to make the new way of working more human. The surprising truth about social networks is that it fills the humanity gap many global workers feel in cold, impersonal email chains and conference calls.”

We’re able to gain knowledge about a person more easily than ever before. But since everyone has access to essentially the same information, the challenge lies in using the data to make warm connections and build meaningful relationships. Instead of building wide, superficial, low-value networks, we should instead use the information we find online to build high-value targeted circles that support, reinforce, and strengthen one another like a Venn diagram.

When engaging with CRM tools and social networks, Mike recommends that modern professionals:

“Perceive the user-provided data as a starting point, not an end point. Fundamentally, what people share expresses their interests and passions. To form a mutual connection, there must be more than knowledge of their interest.”

Face-to-Face Networking

Sabrina Risley, CEO and Founder of CERTUS Professional Network suggests one’s motivation matters a great deal when networking face-to-face: “The relationships that result from networking depend entirely upon your approach to and reason for networking in the first place.”

She continues:

“Are you networking to get new clients as quickly as possible? Or are you networking to build relationships? The latter has proven to be a more effective and productive approach. What you put into your networking determines what you get out of it and the strength of the relationships you form. When you network, focus on getting to know the people you meet, ask good questions, ask how you can help them and follow through on promise you make, and follow up with folks with whom you sense synergy between your companies. Give first, receive second.”

When networking face-to-face, set goals. Be intentional. Know your audience but also know yourself. You want the people you converse with to add value to your world, but how do you add value to theirs? What can you offer them? What do they want to achieve? Strong, community-focused networks are ecosystems in which everyone satisfies needs and makes contributions.

So what’s the best way to start this process?

HBR suggests:

“A good way to begin is to make a simple request or take the initiative to connect two people who would benefit from meeting each other. Doing something—anything—gets the ball rolling and builds confidence that one does, in fact, have something to contribute.”

Sabrina adds:

“Networking can be done anywhere and with anyone … our clients, prospects, friends, teachers, friends. Everyone knows someone. It’s just a matter of asking the right questions and asking for introductions.”

Building a Personal Board of Directors

Mentorship has always fascinated me, and it’s helped me become who I am today. The concept of having a board of directors in my life — a collaborative network of mentors with diverse experiences and opinions — is new per se, but it’s a critical relationship network to cultivate.

An a 2014 Inc. article, Square CFO Sarah Friar discusses her own board: “It’s a very fancy term for the idea of thinking broadly about who your mentors are, who your role models are going to be in life.”

How do you build a board for yourself?

Sarah suggests filling the board with five types of people:

  • someone you work with
  • someone you aspire to be
  • a mentor from a previous life
  • a person who isn’t senior to you
  • someone you are personally close to

Having role models and supportive influences is something we all need at every stage of life. When we’re children, we idolize sports stars and astronauts, but, as I’ve gotten older, I find my true role models are a bit closer to home. As Sarah suggests, my personal board of heroes and mentors is now filled with teammates, friends, and others I’m close to and have an immediate, personal connection with.

I suspect many of the people reading this feel this same way.

The people in my network all have stories to tell, just as I do. And working together, we help one another shape these stories. Sometimes, we do so on social media. Sometimes, we do so face-to-face. The most important feature of all these connections, though, involves building mutually-empowering communities that strengthen the lives of everyone involved and, by extension, the world at large.

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Cynthia Wilson

Chief Relationship Officer

Cynthia served as SH's CRO from 2013-16. She studied Journalism and Technical Communication, with a focus on Public Relations and a minor in music, at Colorado State University. In her professional life, she's worked with a number of different companies including the music incubator SpokesBuzz, where she managed social media and blog content for their SXSW showcase. Cynthia has also managed PR and logistics for the USA Pro Challenge Women's Grand Prix, served as content manager for Cheese Chick Productions' "Best of Show" project at the American Cheese Society's annual conference, and coordinated marketing for the MouCo Cheese Company. In addition to serving as CRO, Cynthia created content for Studio Hyperset's "3 for 3" blog post series.