The new year is here, and as an entrepreneur, freelancer, or professional, you’ve probably already committed yourself to improving your businesses and business relationships in 2016. As the saying goes, none of us live on an island, although some extremely successful business people may own one as a vacation getaway. Since we don’t live our lives and operate our businesses in a solitary manner, we understand the importance of building great relationships with customers, vendors, and strategic partners.

Some Reasons Why Professional Relationships Aren’t Built

There are many entrepreneurs and other professionals who don’t make a concerted effort to become friends with or even develop partnerships with others in the same industry. There are many reasons for this. For instance, it could be that as a busy entrepreneur, you simply haven’t had the time to attend industry events or connect with others online. Some business owners may be less sociable in their personal lives and find it difficult to connect with others, while some even believe that it’s better to operate alone, free of any possibility that an industry friend may “borrow” an innovative new idea or concept. Regardless of the reasons why you may have not connected with others in your industry in the past, the new year is a great time to reach out and make some industry friends!

Industry Friends And Partners Are A Valuable Resource

It is understandable that some don’t agree with, or can’t really comprehend, the concept of an industry “friend.” For some of us the concept of friendship is personal and should only be used for personal relationships, while for others the role of an entrepreneur doesn’t allow for friendly relationships that don’t revolve around a quid pro quo. Regardless of whether or not an industry friendship or partnership reaches the same level as a personal friendship, having a friendly, mutually-beneficial relationship with another member of your industry can provide excellent returns for your business. An industry friend can provide feedback about a new product or service you’ve offered in the past or are currently offering, providing your business with extremely valuable feedback that you may not get elsewhere. Your new industry friend or partner may also have valuable relationships with vendors or suppliers and can offer an endorsement or referral that could prove to be very valuable to your business. Finally, an industry friend or partner can pass along valuable customer or client feedback, alerting you to new trends or issues with your industry and providing an early opportunity to make adjustments to your own business.

Friendships And Partnerships Are A Two-Way Street

As we mentioned earlier, your industry friends and partners don’t have to be as close to you as your personal friendships. As many industry friendships and partnerships are developed at industry events and over the Internet, you may not even have the same opportunities to develop a friendship as you would with someone closer to you, or someone with whom you share a long relationship. That said, industry friends and partners shouldn’t be treated like a consultant or employee – you have to give and provide information, advice, and counseling just as often as you receive it. For this reason, trying to form a friendship or partnership with a direct competitor is often unwise. Instead, try to meet those in your industry outside of your geographical region, or perhaps someone who serves a different target market than yourself. If you can’t bring yourself to trust your friend or partner, it is unlikely that your friendship or partnership will survive in the long-term.

In our next post, we will discuss a few of the ways you can connect with others within your industry, both online and in person.