Healthy business relationships are the foundation of any successful business, large or small, especially service-based businesses. As a business owner, you want to think of every client as a potential lifelong customer, who will not only continue to do business with you but invite other people they know to do business with you.
"Individuals naturally will want to expand the business they do with people they enjoy working with and, in many cases, may even create other business opportunities for those they enjoy working with," said corporate law attorney Emily T. Brackstone, a shareholder in the Memphis office of Baker Donelson and vice chair of the firm's Emerging Companies Team. "There is no better source of business than referrals from satisfied customers."
But building that trust between client and provider can be a long, difficult process, and sometimes, despite your best efforts, relationships break down. Brackstone shared her advice for forming and maintaining healthy business relationships, as well as leaving bad ones behind.
Building good business relationships
As with all relationships, the most important factor in building strong business relationships is trust.
"Building trust is a critical factor in fostering quality business relationships," Brackstone said. "People prefer to do business with those they can trust to act in furtherance of, or at least not opposed to, their best interests. Once that trust breaks down, it can be difficult to salvage a relationship."
Other factors to consider are product satisfaction – ensuring that the product or service you provide meets the standard your clients expect – and open communication, said Brackstone. You want to make it easy for business partners or clients to get in touch with you. Being hard to contact can make people doubt your reliability and make them feel less secure about doing business with you.
Settling business disputes
During business deals, it's very common for disputes to occur, as the interests of different parties can sometimes conflict. When this happens, be sure to keep things professional and refrain from lashing out in emotion. Brackstone advises calm, direct communication, preferably in person.
"Getting the parties together face-to-face in a room can often go a long way toward clearing the air," she told Business News Daily. "People often will behave badly over email, or even over the phone, but suddenly become much more reasonable when they are sitting across the table from the person. Be strategic about who is included in the meeting, however, as including someone with bad energy or a domineering personality can set the wrong tone."
For more tips on resolving disputes, visit this Business News Daily guide.
Is it time to dissolve a business relationship?
If it is clear that a business relationship is not working, the individuals and companies involved should try to dissolve the relationship without creating further damage, Brackstone said.
"They should address the issue head on, explain what is not working, and suggest a reasonable course for the parties to extract themselves from the relationship," she added.
For the sake of your company's reputation, don't rush out of a bad client relationship without coming up with a viable compromise. Knowing how to resolve these issues properly can be the difference between one unsatisfied customer and a PR nightmare.