I was fortunate enough to have Jeffery Ventrella write the forward for my book, The Wolves and the Mandolin. There was one quote from his forward that I feel encapsulates the way I approach my business relationships.  

“What we see […] is that relationships trump transactions; flourishing motivates far more than fear; community prevails over commodity; and incarnation (living it) precedes proclamation (talking about it).” – Jeffery J. Ventrella, J.D., Ph.D.

Cultivating lasting and meaningful business relationships takes more than a good first impression or a strong handshake. Like other deep relationships in our lives, they take thought and dedication over time. Here’s what I’ve found to be important while building and maintaining professional relationships throughout my career.

Authenticity and Acceptance. As in most relationships, it’s important to feel comfortable enough to be yourself. Sometimes we get caught up in our professional persona to the point that our true self doesn’t come through. By letting your personality shine through, others will be able to appreciate who you are both in and out of the office.

The flipside of this is accepting others as they are as well. It’s also important to create an environment where others feel like they can be their true selves. This means allowing others to be heard and creating relationships that are free from snap judgements.

Making Others Feel Valued. Some business interactions make you feel like nothing more than a box to be checked on someone’s to-do list. By making others feel valued and important, you can break this cycle and create more meaningful interactions.

When conversing with new connections, try to remember unique things you learn about them, such as their favorite hobby or the last place they went on vacation. You can bring these up in future conversations to let them know that you were listening and care about them as an individual.

One-on-one interactions are another great way to make others feel valued and nurture your business relationships. The modern world is so caught up in email and social media; giving your professional connections real facetime shows you value them and effectively builds strong, lasting connections.

Respect and Loyalty. I believe these traits go hand in hand. When you respect someone, you will show that through your loyalty. Refrain from frivolous gossip; you never know who might be around to hear it. Be careful not to reveal information that might’ve been given to you in confidence, say in those one-on-one meetings we just discussed. Others will be more likely to trust and respect you if they know their business (personal or professional) is safe when shared with you.

Let Go of Expectations. It’s best to go into relationships with no expectations of what they might bring. This piece of advice can be applied to most situations in life but especially when building professional relationships.

If you meet with someone expecting to benefit from the interaction or with a preconceived notion of them, there’s a big possibility you’ll come away disappointed. Ideally, your business relationships should be about what you can do for others or how you can enter into a mutually beneficial partnership.