Collaborate to Win Is the Paradox of Market Competition Our great ideas go nowhere without relationships that bring us the customers, employees and investors we need to succeed.
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To succeed, a startup must generate new business and attract talented employees, which requires using all of your resources smartly. Relationship capital is the connections, networks and relationships we all have that can be leveraged for business success. It must not be overlooked.
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Executives of young companies should consistently leverage their networks and connections while encouraging all team members to expand their personal networks. That spurs professional growth individually and for the company. Startups that capitalize on their relationship capital will grow and sustain a healthy corporate culture and work environment.
Below are five useful tips for startups to leverage relationship capital to perfect the science of success:
1) Drop the phone and start a dialogue. We're all guilty of it. We're in an unfamiliar setting, with people we've just met or know in passing. To mask any social discomfort or awkwardness, we whip out our smart phones, to check work emails or train schedules or the average velocity of a hummingbird's wings, anything to keep from making eye contact that might lead to a conversation. Small talk has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Chitchat might not be the shortest line to solving international crises but it's critical to forming new connections and building up relationship capital. That can help solve international crises, or at least next week's biz-dev problem.
2) Get your employees to realize the benefits of shared relationship capital. Professional contacts are personal and hard-won possessions. People rarely share these contacts with colleagues and will never want to hand them over to their company as a whole.
You first need to gain the trust of your staff to overcome their anxiety and get them to embrace sharing their relationship capital. They need to trust you won't take advantage of their contacts for selfish reasons. Emphasize that employees will always be the point-of-contact for their own connections. Let them know that no one will be contacting their buddy at Acme Consolidated without their knowledge. Consider incentive programs and demonstrate the overall value of sharing contacts.
Launching a relationship capital initiative isn't easy. But once employees know you understand their concerns, learn the program's mechanics and become eligible for a pay-to-play bonus, it is more likely that you will see buy-in across the board and a more robust network across your business.
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3) Collaboration can go beyond the office walls. Relationships are not afterthoughts developed once a product or brand is market-ready. They are among the core components for turning a concept turn into reality. You will tap a deep pool of new business and product possibilities, along with a built-in marketing strategy, when you give your customer/client/audience the ability to collaborate with you. As Charles Darwin said, "In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."
4) Never burn bridges. Networking doesn't stop with racking up a bunch of business cards. Building a wide and effective network of connections is no small feat. Real relationship capital is achieved by nurturing, or at the very least maintaining, existing connections. More importantly, it means not burning your connections. Severing ties with someone, even if done unintentionally, can have major repercussions, which might take years to manifest.
5) Diversify your relationships. Are you exclusively focused on your sphere of influence or are you diversifying your web of contacts? We tend to network within our own industries, but the more we branch out, the more we broaden and deepen our intellectual and social reach. Collaboration across industries can help complete projects, hatch fresh ideas, solve technical problems, and help businesses and charitable organizations address social needs.
These strategies are all achievable for startups that recognize and embrace the importance of relationship capital. Successfully launching a company from the ground up is an extremely risky undertaking, so be sure to have your Rolodex in hand so your network can help you along the way.
Related: The Key to Success? Relationships