One of the most effective ways to build a successful business and grow over time is to focus on building authentic connections. Building authentic connections with your team, audience, and customers will help you to build a network of ambassadors that vouch for your business and recommend it to people whenever they can. People are at the heart of every business, so making sure your business is focused on the people who matter most is key. It’s also worth remembering the age old saying, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ You never know what opportunities could be presented to you when you aim to build high quality, authentic connections.
With that in mind, here are 9 ways you can build authentic connections as a business owner:
Most people find it hard to be vulnerable, especially business owners who believe they should appear to be in a position of power at all times. However, vulnerabilities can help us to connect with others, and show them that we are human, too. Exposing something about yourself that may be difficult to share could potentially help others, whether that’s inspiring your team or connecting with a customer. Sharing stories and examples of your real challenges, with plenty of emotion, will help you to connect and create a secure space for other people to do the same. This in turn will have a positive impact on your connections and your reputation as an authentic business owner.
If you find yourself frequently stressed, feeling awkward, or having emotional outbursts, it could be a sign that you are not in alignment with what you want the most. Be honest: is what you’re doing in alignment with who you really are and what you want to achieve? Think of what you’re like when you spend time on a task: can you get immersed in it and lose hours to it, or do you spend the time clock watching, feeling frazzled, and wishing it was over? You should do your best to get clear on the activities that fall into the latter category, as this way you’ll have an idea of how to show up more authentically, and what you should potentially outsource or delegate. As a business owner, certain things will need your personal touch – but not everything. Working with a digital marketing agency so that you have more time to spend on the things you’re best at will always better your business, even if it costs more at first. Business owners already need to wear multiple hats, so explore other professionals and services you can work with, and make your goal to work only on the things that give you energy (most of the time).
Building connections nearly always requires a person to have amazing listening skills. You may think you’re listening, but on reflection, you might realize that you have simply been waiting for the other person to finish so that you can speak. Listening to others gives you the opportunity to learn something new every day. You can potentially see things from a new perspective, and make changes based on what you learn. Being willing to listen and make changes based on what you learn can help you to build far stronger relationships while shining your light as your authentic self.
Most businesses are in the habit of only sharing their good news. However, sharing your struggles as a business/business owner gives you even more opportunities to connect with people. People will see you’re not perfect and will find you easier to relate to. Better still, they may even learn something useful from the stories you share, which can lead them back to you time and time again. Always aim to share more than your highlight reel, and let people see the realities of owning a business and what running one entails.
Being authentic does not mean becoming a false version of yourself. It’s about being the most genuine version of yourself. When you know who you really are, and you set a clear intention for how you’re going to show up, you can confidently share your voice and help other people. Whether writing or speaking, you will present yourself perfectly and feel good about what you’re putting out there. Make sure you’re committed to being yourself and standing up for what you believe in.
Talking to people and aiming to build connections with them, purely for the result – building connections – won’t always go well. People may see right through you, and the connection often won’t be as good as you want it to be. Be genuinely interested in each person you speak to, as whether they turn out to be a valuable connection or not, you could learn something from them. Ask them questions about the things they say (don’t just use it as an opportunity to talk about yourself), really listen, and don’t judge.
This is a tricky one, as much of being open and vulnerable means sharing uncomfortable stories and failures as well as wins. However, you need to be able to differentiate from things that should be said, and things you should keep to yourself. If we’re talking about one on one conversations, it’s important to get a read on the other person and try to figure out how much they actually want to know. If they don’t look like they are actively listening to you, or encouraging you to open up, it could be time to wrap up. Go deeper into your story if you are encouraged to do so. Having empathy for others can help you to figure out what to say and what not to say, and will go a long way in helping you to run a great business.
Your cares and core values will likely stay the same for a while, if not for life. However, things do change over time, so it’s important to check in with yourself to see if anything needs to change so you can continue to align with your values as you run your business. Making sure you align with your cares and values will give you more space to connect with others, let go of stress, and be your authentic self. It’s normal to struggle occasionally, which is why checking in is key.
We’re all wonderfully unique, and this means that we are usually amazing at certain things that others may not be so good at. Finding your own unique ways in which you can add authentic value to those in your network will help you to strengthen your connections tenfold. Of course, you may also need to put a strong focus on your self development if you’re going to do this. Exploring your strengths and weaknesses, and getting serious about learning as much about yourself as possible can result in huge professional and personal benefits. Not only that, you’ll often feel more fulfilled and satisfied with the way things are going.
Building authentic connections as a business owner is an ongoing effort, and something that you will also need to maintain. Following up with the people in your network, checking in where possible, and ensuring you nurture them once you have made them will make the biggest difference over time.