It’s Never Been Easier to Build Business Friendships

In business, some degree of friendship is the root of most successful interactions. From pleasant dealings with clients/customers to taking a legitimate interest in your employees’ lives, everything runs a bit more smoothly when an element of friendship permeates the exchange.

And as the last article detailed, friendship among business owners can provide a robust network of both experience and knowledge as helps you navigate the complexities of management and forge mutually beneficial partnerships.

You’re probably sold on the value of friendships in business -- but how do you do it when your time and resources are so limited? It would be great if you could devote half your day to maintaining relationships with talented people who you enjoy, but reality gets in the way. You’ve got a business to run (and it probably isn’t a social club). Fortunately, we’re in 2017, which means there are several cheap, easy, and effective ways to start, build, and maintain business friendships.

The Old Rules Still Apply

Traditional ways of meeting other business owners, like industry events and Chambers of Commerce, continue to be valuable. Taking an active role in a relevant group can lead you to a network of business owners so large that there will always be a resource you need when you need it.

The important thing is that you enjoy being involved, so pop into a few events and see how you match up -- and then start talking to the people around you.

If It Exists, It’s Online

There’s an online group for everything. No matter what industry you’re in or what your attitudes on business are, there’s an online community for you. Virtual friends are friends, too, and more people are gravitating toward online business relationships with every passing year.

It’s as simple as Googling to find groups or going to the website of a relevant publication. They often have sub-communities or articles/advertisements that can point you in the right direction. With tools like real-time chat and Google Hangouts, you can build and maintain business friendships online with the same level of legitimacy you’d have in person… and your reach is global rather than just local.

Make Smart Use of Social Media

It’s never been easier to keep track of what businesses are doing and follow along with the details of everyone involved. From hard-focused social sites like LinkedIn, where you can meet an endless array of professionals, to the more personal relationships on Facebook, you have a slew of powerful tools at your disposal.

Be bold and be forward. Reach out and send a friend request, then keep up with their activity. A very small percentage of connections actually engage with posts, so simple actions like a short response to a LinkedIn article shows that you’re interested. It only takes a minute and you’ll definitely stand out.

As long as you avoid controversial comments or overstepping boundaries, you can maintain a presence as you keep track of up-to-the-minute details that make in-person conversations meaningful.

It’s never been easier to find other businesspeople and follow along with them -- and that’s fertile ground from which friendships can grow. You can follow up any of these contacts with the sort of in-person interaction that builds a real relationship, such as treating someone to lunch (everyone needs to eat) or spending a little downtime with someone at a conference.

How you do it is up to you. Make the most of your personal strengths and operate within your comfort zone. But whatever you do, start making the effort to build these business friendships -- in the long-term your customers and employees will thank you, and you’ll thank yourself.

Rodney Steele