Why It’s Important for Businesses to Build Relationships in the Workplace
By Erin Hearn
Developing alliances in the workplace is a proven way for businesses to run better, grow faster, and be more successful! By leveraging relationships with other organizations and partners, companies have the potential to gain momentum, achieve their goals, and perform well. But how does an organization go about creating those critical and strategic alliances? How should it be done? What steps are important? Here you’ll find answers to these important questions.
What is Alliance Development?
Companies seek to establish long-term relationships that help and build their business, much like how countries form alliances based on mutual interests. A strategic business alliance creates long-term partnerships that are mutually beneficial and create value for both parties. The more value created on either end, the stronger the relationship!
Why is it important?
Relationships are crucial for a business to achieve its goals and mission. A company needs alliance development to gain feedback on its performance and services, to support its mission, to collaborate with, to build word-of-mouth promotions, and to encourage the use of the service or product!
A company will utilize various types of alliances and relationships. Some of these alliances will be with supporters you can engage in promoting your efforts. Some will be resources to offer feedback and intel. Some will even be critics who can identify issues or problems to be solved.
When considering and planning for new alliances, there are some key steps to follow to develop a successful alliance development strategy. Here are some tips!
Where to start: Finding relationships
A great first step to developing alliances is first strategizing where to find them and who to pick! The first thing a company should do is seek out organizations that share your goal or have overlapping priorities. This way, you are developing a relationship with someone who has knowledge of what it is you are doing and can provide better insight than someone unfamiliar with your work.
Secondly, think outside the box! Your company may need different types of organizations for different projects and to work with different audiences. At J Strategies, sometimes I rely on patient groups for activities surrounding access to treatments for one of our health care clients, while other times I rely on business organizations for activations surrounding intellectual property.
Another tip for finding potential alliances is to use your existing connections! Attend partner events and use these events to network with others. Watch out for groups a partner may mention collaborating within their newsletters or social media posts and determine if this is someone your company would consider partnering with!
Next steps: How to develop relationships
Once you’ve found an organization you’d like to partner with, the next step is to take the initiative by presenting yourself, your company, and developing those relationships further. It’s as simple as introducing yourself and finding time to meet so you can connect in more depth.
Pre-COVID at J Strategies, I would take a partner out for coffee or visit their office with some treats, like cookies or muffins. Doing something nice, no matter the size will help you and your company stick in the partner’s mind and will help kick off a positive association with you!
The pandemic has changed the way we meet partners and begin relationships.. During COVID, I try to schedule calls or video chats. Sometimes I will use an organization’s event as a way to spark interest in a conversation!
Connecting with your partner
So now you and your company have found the organization you want to create an alliance with, have scheduled the first conversation with them, now what? In this first meeting, you want to make sure to identify your partner’s goals, priorities, and audiences. Identifying these things will help you identify how that may be able to work with you.
Keep up with these relationships but be cognizant of your partner’s workload, the size of their staff, and their schedule. Some helpful ways to keep up with these relationships by sending an article or an event you think is relevant to them, or follow up after an event they had with a positive note! Even just sending a small check-in email lets your partner know you’re thinking about them and keeps you and your company fresh in their mind.
An important part of keeping those relationships is being cognizant of ways an organization is willing to engage and being respectful of that. For example, if I know a group can’t actively advocate (i.e. join a sign-on letter), I may limit my interactions to sharing event invitations.
Finally, be a resource for your partner’s networking! If you think another advocate would be a good resource, set up an introduction for them.
In case you need any more help when it comes to alliance development, check out Harvard Business Review’s Simple Rules for Making Alliances Work. By incorporating the practices outlined in this piece, companies have radically improved their alliance development success rates!
The rewards of developing relationships and alliances can be great. Remember, these alliances are not just a business arrangement but a relationship. Treat it as such!
Erin Hearn is an Alliance Development Manager at J Strategies.