Build better business relationships

Jun 03, 2019
Create and maintain lasting business connections in six simple steps.

As the team at Harbinson Mulholland plan to celebrate the firm’s 21st birthday in June 2019, I am delighted by the number of clients who have been with the firm since its establishment in 1998. There is no doubt that healthy business relationships are the foundation of any business large or small. However, I fear that in a world with emerging technologies in which we can work remotely, analyse data at the touch of a button and communicate without uttering a word, the ability to create and maintain trusted relationships will be diluted.

It is imperative that we, as Chartered Accountants, whether in practice or industry, develop good business relationships. These relationships may be with customers/clients, suppliers, employees, competitors, partners, investment or lending institutions. To maintain good business relationships, it is essential to:

  • Build new relationships by diversifying networks;
  • Ensure that relationships are mutually beneficial – give at least as much as you expect to receive;
  • Identify key relationships;
  • Focus on the external environment;
  • Apply time and resources to critical social issues; and
  • Prune, renew and reshape networks frequently.
However, err on the side of caution, as more is not always better. Furthermore, over-investment in relationships will take precious time away from the business, and strong networks may act as a barrier to new entrants.

Trust and respect

Relationships empower us and allow us to recover from losses or setbacks. They ensure that we don’t feel isolated in business. However, there is a cost to acquiring customers and finding suitable business partners. Retaining these contacts is therefore vital to success.

If we treat business partners, customers and others with honesty, trust and respect, this will help maintain the business relationship. Trust is your most crucial business asset in the form of relationships. Every interaction is an opportunity to build relationships and nurture trust – from the moment a customer drives into your carpark, visits your website or calls your office right through to the point when they drive out, leave the site or hang up the phone.

Great customer relationships are essential, and these should be nurtured. When you have healthy relationships, you have loyal customers. The same principle applies to the workplace – instil trust and respect, and hire the right people. It is worth allocating resources to ensure that you are recruiting the right people. It is also vital to keep employees where relationships have been developed, and trust is embedded.

Building business relationships

There is no doubt that we need to adapt our training as Chartered Accountants to take account of new technologies and the changing environment in which we operate. Chartered Accountants Ireland has already taken this into account when looking at the syllabus for our professional exams. The Institute also recognises the importance of peer relationships and, through the Young Professionals Group, encourages members to begin building their networks in the early part of their careers.

We at Harbinson Mulholland understand the value of businesses building relationships and sharing experiences with similar companies. So, we developed the Family Business Forum, which will celebrate its third birthday in May this year. The forum brings together family business owners and managers and provides an environment for sharing experiences. We are also committed to assisting relationship-building in the third sector and will facilitate a series of seminars for finance managers to discuss current issues and share experiences.

Angela Craigan FCA is a Partner with Harbinson Mulholland, the accountancy and business advisory firm.