A harvest of sweet, ripe relationships.

We all have relationships. That’s a special, wonderful part of being social creatures. Most of us have parents, siblings, cousins,  uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, grandparents, and/or children. We have spouses, partners, friends, colleagues, mentors, protegés, employees, bosses, clients, patrons, rivals, enemies, admirers, followers, and guides. That’s just a sampling of the relationships that we experience as humans. So what?

“No man is an island,” John Donne wrote four centuries ago. Clearly, we need the interaction, the companionship, and the support of those who surround us. In business, we often take for granted the complexity of our daily interactions with people and entities within and outside our commercial dealings. How crucial it is to have clients, of course, first and foremost: someone needs to pay for our precious products and services. But we also need our suppliers and service providers. We need support from our family. Our co-workers help us define our working culture. Our friends affect our psyches. We even need the government, without which we’d have no laws to regulate business, competition, and society in general. Just thinking about all the connections we maintain day to day, it’s incredible how intricate our existence becomes!

What do we do with all these connections? Some true capitalists among us would likely say (or at least think) “exploit them, of course.” Hmm. Despite the sound of that, it’s actually what we do, more or less. Instead of the negativity associated with the term “exploit,” though, how about if we say, “make the best of?” I like the sound of that much better, personally. Okay, so what do I suggest?

Think of a relationship as an organism. Like any living thing, it works best when nourished and maintained. If you can get it to thrive, I believe you’ll work wonders. Whatever the relationship is, if it can yield something positive for you, give it whatever it needs to grow! So, what steps to take?

First, I suggest acknowledgement. Recognize that the relationship exists and has a life. Make it clear that you like it and value its effect on your business, or, more broadly, your life. Next, empower it. Take some time to touch base with your contacts and tell them that you appreciate what they do for you. You should let them know that you’ll do what you can to reciprocate their positive contribution to your world. Lastly, show respect. Don’t take a relationship for granted — ever. Live up to your commitments and when you promise something, make it happen to the best of your ability.

I’ve always believed that something worth having is something worth maintaining, and relationships are definitely among these. I’ve mentioned to friends and family that I feel blessed because there are so many times in my business life that I start out with a client and wind up with a friend. I realize now that it doesn’t just happen randomly: it’s because I’ve nurtured the relationship and allowed it to bud, blossom, and bear fruit. Who doesn’t like fruit?