Every Business Owner Needs a Network of Friends

There might not be anyone in America who knows more about sales than Jeffrey Gitomer. With thirteen books, including his seminal work “The Sales Bible,” Gitomer has detailed virtually every angle that goes into successful sales. Millions globally have honed both attitudes and practices by learning from his books, seminars, articles, and newsletters.

But the real value in Gitomer’s body work is that very little of it is actually about sales. At its core, it’s about how to make the most of our interactions with each other, how to identify other people’s problems accurately, and how to present solutions to those problems.

When you think about it, that’s the essence of management. It’s how solid families and friendships function. It’s how sports teams succeed in drafts and trades, and it’s how we make good neighbors (or, at the least, avoid being bad neighbors). Gitomer’s common sense approach governs a whole host of our relationships and shows us that sales doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Gitomer frequently cites an old, but important, saying in business: “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. And all things being NOT equal, people STILL want to do business with their friends.”

But how does cultivating friendships in business really pay off? It’s obvious if your sole job is sales -- strong relationships mean more selling and better customer retention. Small and medium business leaders, though, have a different set of needs.Entrepreneurs -- and especially those who are new -- often have to do just about everything themselves, and most days can feel like your actual job is to reinvent the wheel. Seeking out and growing friendships can mitigate that feeling of having your entire business on your shoulders.

Meeting other small business owners and keeping your relationship with them active makes their experience and expertise available to you. That can mean having someone to call on when an issue comes up (which especially useful when it comes to management), or it can be as simple as seeing that other people deal with the same problems you do.

Both payoffs depend on you being proactive about forming relationships with other business owners and making an effort to maintain them.

See Problems Before They Happen

It’s a bit cynical, but it’s true: a major benefit of having strong friendships with other executives or business owners is that you can see them dealing with problems before you have to.

This is particularly useful as nearly all businesses struggle to navigate the rapidly-changing healthcare landscape. How are other businesses handling the financial implications? What are they doing well, and what are they doing poorly? Is anyone working with a PEO to make it all simpler? What’s happened to the firms who just don’t have a handle on it?

Friendships with other owners allow you to learn along with them by proxy -- and avoiding their mistakes and difficulties has tremendous value.

Good Friends Lead to Great Partnerships

Most businesses can benefit from working closely with other businesses to augment some element of their operations. Whether it’s marketing or cleaning or building, having a friend to partner with can nip problems in the bud, jump start a new initiative, or help you both save a buck.

The more friends you have, the more opportunities exist to integrate the talents of others into your own business. A cold call for a partnership likely won’t go anywhere, while tossing an idea to a friend who at the least will provide feedback is worth everyone’s time.

Being an entrepreneur is a tricky balance of taking full responsibility for everything and developing a strong support system that can step in to provide knowledge, resources, and opportunities for you to succeed. You can do it the hard way -- do it all yourself and do it all alone -- or you can do it the easy way by developing strong, meaningful friendships that will take the load off you and boost your business.

Rodney Steele