Getting Personal: How To Build a Solid Business Network
Business is about relationships — there’s no denying that. But these days, with the rise of social media and the necessity of having a personal brand, business is personal, and maybe more so than ever.
Michelle Wolfarth of artisan-focused online shop AMERICAN NOMAD has learned this in her time as a business owner and graphic designer. Here, Michelle shares her thoughts on why business really is personal, and why relationships have mattered — big time — in the growth of her business:
We’ve all heard the saying: “It isn’t personal, it’s just business.”
I tend to disagree.In my 16 years working as a graphics professional, it was something I’d heard many times and never quite understood. And now, as a fledgling business owner, I’ve quickly learned just how personal business can be.
When I first started to research and curate items for my store, my budget was very, very small. There were many products I fell in love with, and I would get so upset to learn that a vendor’s minimum buying limit was $5,000. It was money I just didn’t have in the beginning phases of my business.
Rather than getting discouraged by these out-of-budget minimums, I decided to approach some of the brands and vendors, and explain the mission of AMERICAN NOMAD. I told them my vision, why starting the store was a personal decision, and I was amazed at what happened as a result: Vendors started to say yes, because they believed in my mission, and they wanted to find a way to work together.
I was building a positive business network by cultivating personal relationships.
It seemed the more I explained the personal aspect of my business, the more vendors were willing to help me. I soon realized this was because business wasn’t just personal for me, but rather it was personal for these companies as well. They remembered what it was like starting out and the struggles new business owners encounter.
The value of good relationships
Though I’d always thought about it, becoming an entrepreneur taught me the value of a strong business network through building personal relationships. At the end of the day, how could business not be personal? We’re all people, living our lives, building our careers and — for some of us — opening businesses. While there is an absolute need to maintain levels of professionalism, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day there is a personal level to any and every business relationship.
If you’re looking to grow your business network, you may want to take a closer look at how you currently view your colleagues or business partners. If you’re starting a new business, treating your partners with respect and honesty is of the upmost importance. Remember that you’re no longer working in an office where you can walk out the door in the evening. Being an entrepreneur means that your business is now a part of every aspect of your life.
On especially tough days, the only way I can rest soundly at night is because I know that I’ve given each person I’ve interacted with courtesy and respect. If I can end my day knowing that I’ve treated everyone as a person rather than just another business or professional relationship, then it’s been a good day.
I could write for days about the people I have met along my journey as a new business owner that have shared their personal experiences with me and graciously listened to my concerns. There have been days when hearing someone else relate to what I was going through was just the push I needed to take the next step.
By accepting the idea that business is personal, you’ll learn lessons that can’t read about in a book. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be you and not just a business.