14 Unique Aspects Of Building Relationships In The Business World

Expert Panel® Forbes Coaches Council

New and rising business leaders would do well to not undervalue their professional connections; these key relationships can ultimately impact your career trajectory or future business strategy. Filling a gap in your broader network could be the key to getting an excellent employee referral or landing your dream job. The truth is, however, people approach relationship building in the business world a little differently than in other settings. 

Learning about these differences from other leaders who have successfully built thriving networks can help you create stronger relationships in all of your professional endeavors. Below, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council share unique aspects of building relationships in the business world and how the dynamics they create affect new leaders who are trying to forge meaningful connections with direct reports, colleagues and prospective partners.

Featured members share unique aspects of building relationships in the business world.
Forbes Coaches Council members share unique aspects of building relationships in the business world.

1. Understanding The Bigger Picture Is Key

Understanding the bigger picture is key to a successful business relationship. What dynamics are at play for the other party? What is a priority for their decision makers? What are the trends in their ecosystem? You then need to consider how these align with your business agenda. Taking time to explore these aspects gives context for sustainable, value-adding business relationships. – Linda McLoughlin, LeadershipWorks

2. Power Affects How People View Relationships

Power affects how people view and develop business relationships. New leaders should first identify who has the most power, formal or informal, over their success or failure, and any notable power dynamics at the company (who influences whom). That will help them prioritize who to start cultivating authentic, meaningful relationships with. – Neena Newberry, Newberry Solutions

3. Focusing On What Others Can Do For You Won’t Work

Too often, leaders focus on what others can do for them, as opposed to asking themselves what they can do to be of value to others. Determine how you can help someone before ever asking anything from them. Make connections, refer them, offer insight and promote their business. Focus on building the relationship first, and the rest will fall into place. – Kristin Andree, Andree Group

4. Honesty Creates Meaningful Relationships

Uncompromising honesty is what creates meaningful relationships in business. You need to be brave enough to follow this path because not everyone loves such people, but they’re definitely respected. Everyone is working toward a common goal, and everyone has something to contribute. This dynamic creates an environment where people can be open and honest and creates a space for growth. – Mikhail Saidov, Coaching Solutions

5. Trust Is Critical And Takes Time To Build

In the pro services space, trust is at the heart of fruitful business relationships. It takes time to build trust. The best way I’ve discovered to build trust is to have a high say-do score: to consistently do what you say you’ll do. The higher your say-do score, the more trust will be extended your way. So be careful with your promises and deliver in full measure. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

6. Collaboration Is Better Than Competition 

When you meet a like-minded professional with similar background experience to yours, it truly can be a magical connection. But, there is a risk of feeling competitive and jealous of other professionals. You have to be aware of the skills you bring to the table and constantly think of ways to collaborate with others rather than compete against them. – Kimberly Olson, The Goal Digger Girl

7. Creating Relationships Is Not The Same As Finding Transactions

Creating meaningful relationships is different than trying to find transactions. There is nothing wrong with “doing business,” but if you have to end a relationship to get a business win, you need to weigh those consequences. In other words, it could cost you more in the long run to win and leave a relationship in ruins. Find ways to build win-win relationships that will pay off more than once. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

8. Business Relationships Are Often Based Around Shared Goals

In business, relationships are often characterized by explicit, shared and/or overlapping goals with clear deadlines. As a result, there is constant pressure on people to perform, often within a time frame. By evaluating the pattern of results, a business relationship can be evaluated and changed more easily and quickly than a personal relationship, which is characterized by emotion and choice. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

9. Everyone Has Their Own Story And Beliefs

When you’re building relationships in the business world, remember that everyone has their own story and beliefs. Their motivations, experiences and perspectives will be different from yours. In building a connection, learn what you can about them by asking about their life experiences and motivations. Connect on a personal level, and you’ll be much more likely to build lasting and meaningful relationships. – Giorgio Genaus, Genius Institute

10. It Helps To Highlight Non-Business-Related Aspects Of Life

Because so much time is spent within the business community, highlighting non-business-related aspects of a person’s life can strengthen trust and transparency. Bridging both worlds can be as simple as asking questions about a connection’s personal goals or what they are working on outside of business. – Lisa Marie Platske, Upside Thinking, Inc.

11. Building Business Relationships Means Delivering Expertise

One unique aspect is the delivery of expertise in the relationship-building process. The best way for a new leader to prepare to build connections in the business world is to create valuable content. Assess the value you provide: Codify your expertise and survey the business needs of the people with whom you desire to build meaningful relationships. Be sure your expertise is current and relevant. – Natasha Charles, Intuitive Coaching with Natasha Charles

12. Relationships Need To Be Built Quickly In A Fast-Paced Environment

The business world is a dynamic and fast-paced environment, which means that meaningful relationships need to be built quickly. This can be a challenge for new leaders. In general, people are motivated by the desire to feel connected with others. In the business world, it is important for leaders to be able to build these connections quickly in order to achieve their goals. – Willena Long, Career Boss Academy

13. Overt And Implied Power Structures Should Be Respected

In business relationships, there is often an overt or implied power structure. With friends, most come together for what they bring to the relationships. In a business context, while there can be an exchange of fair work for fair trade/money, there is usually one party that holds slightly more power. That should be respected even more in terms of decision-making, prioritization and feedback. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates, LLC

14. Strong Business Relationships Have A Personal Element

My strongest business relationships also have a personal element. Get to know your key contacts as people—find common points of interest, hobbies, views or experiences. Build an actual human connection to foster a stronger business connection. We do business with people we know, like and trust. – Krista Neher, Boot Camp Digital