Connecting with investors, new customers, talent and other entrepreneurs is critical to the success of any startup. However building relationship capital takes time as trust is earned. I spoke with two experienced entrepreneurs to gain their insight on how to build stronger relationships. Here’s 4 tips to help grow your startup.
1. Help others
In addition to providing relevant introductions and promoting the work of others across your network, ways in which we can help people is to offer advice, expertise and feedback. In doing so, make sure you’re not just sharing to have something to contribute to the conversation.
According to Upstate Venture Catalyst Martin Babinec, we should actually limit the events, articles and research we share when helping others so that our input, content or actions are of interest and valuable to each individual. He advises to be sensitive to needs that may not have been overtly expressed, and practice due diligence over time when providing resources.
“My approach here is to inquire first to confirm the interest before going into full sharing mode,” said Babinec. “Sometimes, we can’t fulfill the request when we receive it. Then later on we stumble across some resource that was right in line with what someone was looking for and even if time has passed, it can still bring value to the person we’re seeking to help.”
2. Stay on their radar
People are busy! Between customer, employee and investor demands, to family and community commitments, time is a valuable commodity and it’s easy to fall off of someone’s radar as a result. That said, you never want to go extended periods of time without making yourself visible.
Capital District Entrepreneur, Industrialist and Investor David Dussault believes the saying, “out of sight, out of mind,” rings true in this case.
“After first understanding what is valuable to someone, ask yourself if you’re providing or creating enough relational value for that person so they want to meet and/or communicate with you. If the answer is yes, then it’s vitally important to stay in frequent contact to ensure a trusting relationship is built,” Dussault advises.
In Dussault’s experience, if you are a value creator for someone, then going extended periods of time without contact can erode trust and the relationship. It takes time to build momentum in relational equity, and to lose it by not staying on their radar can be detrimental.
“Something I have always found to be useful is to provide some information or make some level of commitment to that contact. If you are an entrepreneur trying to raise money, initiate a relationship with an investor, but don’t ask for money up front,” said Dussault. “Instead, start with a meeting to share your plans and vision. From here, you can show investors what you expect to execute over the coming months.”
3. Share Updates
Now you’re in position to share updates with your contacts, providing relevant feedback on how you’re executing related plans.
“This will allow you to keep in frequent contact and build trust at the same time,” said Dussault. “Never go in asking, go in demonstrating. The money and the relational equity will build.”
Again, because people are so busy, these communications should be short and simple, especially to start. Professional authenticity has a lot to do with understanding value creating transactions. It’s not until the two parties believe there is mutual value from the relationship and expectations are understood that they should sit down. Dussault suggests having a brief phone call as emails get lost, de-prioritized and are too impersonal.
“I feel guilty turning these meeting requests down, but ultimately, I have a time responsibility to my business, my family and my employees.” said Dussault. “I would prefer to have potential contacts be warmly referred and understand what creates value for me. If they can discover that sweet spot, then I’m game to meet with them.”
You can also communicate with people at social functions. UVC now tracks more than 100 Meetup groups and signature events across Upstate New York. Browse through the UNY Events Calendar and invite someone from your network to attend an event with you.
4. Be visible
The last tip for entrepreneurs on building stronger relationships is to make it easy for people to see you and know what you’re doing online. Maintaining a strong online presence on relevant social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter is a simple way to stay visible and communicate your message. You can also publish a blog to publicly promote your expertise and provide updates on your learnings and achievements.
Both Babinec and Dussault understand the importance of creating brand awareness, not only for themselves as entrepreneurs and ecosystem leaders, but for the venture development organizations and startups they represent.
David Dussault recently launched a series of blog posts on entrepreneurship that he shares on LinkedIN. Read his latest article: Life Changing Entrepreneurship.
If you would like to submit a story to the UNY Pulse, UVC welcomes unique content about Upstate’s startup ecosystem. This is a great way to build your online portfolio and be visible to our growing network of 10,000 followers.
Regardless of the process entrepreneurs deploy to grow our businesses, Babinec reminds us of the most important aspect in building stronger relationships, which is to not have any expectations of getting a return.
“When we help people multiple times without asking for anything back, it strengthens trust – and importantly, may help the recipient do the same in helping others. Lots of people giving before trust is earned is the very foundation of the Silicon Valley culture and why startups thrive in such great quantity there. We can do the same in Upstate New York. All it takes is for us to focus on helping just one person, one relationship at a time,” said Babinec.
Pay it Forward.UVC.org is a 5013c non-profit creating an entrepreneur-led network. Our features are free, including the UNY Events Calendar, Upstate Ecosystem Map and UNY Pulse blog. To help us continue to connect entrepreneurs across Upstate, create new angel seed funds and grow our network, please consider a tax-deductible donation to UVC.org/DONATE.