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3 Rules for Building Business Relationships

Are you generating the most value from your professional relationships? Here are three ways to quickly inject some life into your network.
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Ask any entrepreneur or salesperson (one might argue there is no difference) about their greatest asset and you'll often hear the same answer: their network and relationships.

Countless bestsellers have been written on how to cultivate and nurture relationships.  Why is it then that we see so many people not taking advantage of the opportunities to broaden their network and engage with those who could potentially be their next great partner?

As our firm continues to grow and we bring in top talent from a variety of companies and professional backgrounds, we realize that each of us has a strong network of relationships that we aren't fully leveraging.

Here are three ways to improve the way you nurture your network to get the most out of your professional relationships.

1. Focus on the value that you can provide to your network and not necessarily on what the person can provide for you. If you can provide value to someone in your network with limited time and resource investment, do it! Aside from the fact that it is a nice gesture, you can be sure you'll be top of mind next time this person or someone in their network has a need that fits your area of expertise.

2. Being a relationship "broker" can offer significant benefits to your personal and professional brand. While you should always be sensitive to busy people's time, simply making an introduction between two people in your network who share a common interest or challenge can do wonders for each of these individual relationships.

3. Don't let personal fears get in the way of forming new relationships. It is far easier to talk to people you already know than it is to form new relationships. Explore the boundaries of your comfort zone to put yourself in a position to form new, productive relationships whenever an opportunity arises.  It is never an easy task, but proactively expanding your network can pay off in dividends for your personal and professional development.

It's generally preferable to have fewer high-quality relationships than hundreds of low-quality relationships. By following these simple steps, you can begin to improve the quality of your professional relationships - a skill that is admired by many but mastered by few.

We are always looking for ways to form new relationships and would love to hear your best practices. Share your thoughts with us at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners.com.

Avondale associate Asim Aleem contributed to this article.

IMAGE: Adrianne Koteen/TEDx SF/Flickr
Last updated: Apr 5, 2012

KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART | Columnist | Co-founders, Avondale

Karl Stark and Bill Stewart are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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