4 Types of Business Relationships

What if you could increase yours odds of living a few extra years—and increase the odds of building a stronger bottom line for your business? Would you want to do it? What if you already had all the necessary tools and equipment to make this a reality? Would you start using it?

In fact, you might already be doing so. There are very few businesses that don’t include some level of relationship-building. It might be with your employees, co-workers, vendors or customers—but it’s often superficial. In the working world, it is common to hear people reference their relationship with someone as a “business relationship.” I guess that term is used to establish a clear boundary between two individuals. Maybe it is the acceptable way to say, “If it wasn’t for your business, you really don’t matter much to me.”

What if there were an opportunity in some of the “business relationships” to not only help others, but improve your own well-being in the process?  Research has determined there are at least four types of relationships that produce these results: social support, mentoring, service of others and role models.

You’ve probably heard of most, if not all, of these types of relationships before. But have you ever overtly viewed all four of them as a way to improve your own well-being and the well-being of your business, including that of your employees and customers? It requires moving beyond a “business relationship” and connecting in new ways.

Using These Relationships in Business

Social Support: This means both seeking and providing support to another person. As a business owner or leader that is seeking, focus on engaging with someone you can trust, someone who is interested in your well-being.  A good way to define this person is “normally our conversations improve the situation, not hinder it.”  A peer advisory group may be a good option to consider for social support.

In terms of your employees, co-workers or customers, you are more likely to be providing social support and often the main requirement is simply being present, and the most important component of that is just listening. Beware of getting into a one-upmanship conversation—“You think you got it bad? This is what happened to me”—can actually amp up the stress, which is not the intent. But, if someone has something they need to get off their chest, focus on listening.  And only give advice if you are well informed on the subject.

Mentoring: This is a great win-win relationship. As a mentor, you usually are teaching on a competency you already are familiar with. And it is proven that teaching is the most effective way to become even more proficient on a subject. The mentees win because they are increasing their aptitude via the positive advice and support of the mentor. Studies show that the No. 1 result of a mentorship is the increase in self-confidence. That could apply to both the mentor and the mentee. For more information and ideas on business mentoring in your workplace, check out this great article on mentoring.

Service of Others:  Doing good deeds for others, acts of kindness, helping others, and even community projects—these are all ways to serve others. There have been some great examples of how random acts of kindness trigger a succession of events. One recently in the news was a driver who paid the toll of the next person, who decided to pay for the next person, too. Each recipient repeated the gesture for hours at a toll booth.

This is also a type of relationship you can get your entire company and even customers involved in. A recent local example was Black & Veatch hosting a huge recycling and shredding event on a Saturday in their parking lot.

Want to practice this more directly with co-worker or employees? A client of ours occasionally puts unexpected notes of encouragement or thanks in employee mail boxes. And here’s one we all can try: next time you’re driving, intentionally let someone go in front of you, and let us know if you feel better or worse afterwards.

Role Model: This is the relationship of modeling after someone else to make yourself better, someone you want to emulate. Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa were two individuals who inspired millions. What made them stand out as role models were the value systems they lived by. Mandela spent 27 years in prison because of what he believed in, and Mother Teresa dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor.

Unfortunately, there are often people and companies viewed as role models who turn out to be anything but. Prior to its collapse, Enron was viewed by many to be the model of a great company. If you want your business to be a role model for others, you first must look in the mirror and make sure you endorse and practice what you’re projecting. In recent years, Zappos has become a company many look to as a role model in business.  Seek out a few local companies that inspire you, and at their core, I bet you find some common denominators.   Encourage your team to be role models not only at work but in the community. I trust you and your company will benefit from it.

Those are four different ways to build more meaningful relationships at work. How do you think you stack up personally? How about your business? Do you practice some of these more than others?