Building Relationship Equity / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Successful companies develop relationships with people. When you talk of "my clients" or "my banker", you will have ...

Successful companies develop relationships with people. When you talk of "my clients" or "my banker", you will have a person in mind, rather than an organization. Even if you tell someone, "My biggest client is XYZ, Inc.," you will be picturing John or Mary, the individual with whom you deal. Or if you say, "I bank with First National," you will see Fred or Joanie, the account manager that you deal with.

This not surprising; particularly if yours is a small business. You put a lot of effort and time into your relationships. For good reason: from them flow the life of the business. It is therefore worth your investment in them. This investment should yield a return. But just like the stock market, some 'stocks' will 'perform', while others will not. And also, just like your portfolio of securities, the value of your portfolio of contacts is most likely to grow if you select, monitor and manage them with care.

There are three overlapping people investment streams to work on: Customer, Commercial and Community. The last pool is 'catch all', but you never know where the current make take you. Like any investment, you have to put something in before you can get something out. You may have heard people talk about "give to get" marketing, but "giving to give" without an ulterior motive works best.

Above all, cultivate your curiosity!

Collect Customer Intelligence

On the basis that you have no business until you have customers, customer equity has to be the principal focus of your people investment strategy. Before actually investing, you need to identify possible subjects.

Create Customer Equity

Now you have prospect names, it is time to create customer equity. Of course you want to sell, but you will need to build relationships first. This is true even if you are cold calling (brrh!). And because relationships do not just happen, that is why you need to start long before the business is officially launched.

Collect Commercial Intelligence

You know you need help, but you may not know what exactly or when you will need it. So make a point of collecting information about possible sources of finance or assistance, potential partners or collaborators, means of communication within your locality or business sector. Even if you already have a bank, for instance, alternative banks are good to know about; you may need a new line of credit, or maybe an Internet bank can offer additional services.

Create Commercial Equity

Here is a tougher aspect of building relationship equity. It is much more elusive than customer and community capital. It is about ensuring that your business is valued in your environment(s). You have less control over this. The ways you can impact it is by ensuring that your company maintains very high moral standards and lives its principles. It means paying your bills in a timely manner or negotiating any late payments ahead of due payment dates. It means establishing lines of credit at the bank before you fall into desperate need of funds. It means establishing clear and fair terms of trade or avoiding misleading advertising.

Collect Community Intelligence

You may not think of your life in compartments, but you are part of many different communities: social, local, business, professional, associative, sporting and many more. If you make a point of codifying and classifying them, you will amaze yourself by the complexity. Each one of your communities has a huge amount of information that can be collected and organized.

Create Community Equity

Creating community equity involves effort on your part. Hopefully you will get involved without too much of an ulterior motive and enjoy the process. Your rewards may turn out to surprise you. For instance you might involve yourself with your local chamber of commerce

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