With the Internet, social media and so many forms of technology around us relaying messages, do personal, face-to-face “relationships” still really matter? We can find almost any product or service online and develop a whole network of connections on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Do we really need to cultivate in-person relationships to be successful?
In the modern world, where there is unlimited access to people, markets, products and ideas, maybe relationships matter more than ever. I admit, in this economy, businesses must focus on the bottom line. Very few owners or executives can exist anymore by hiring all of their middle school lunch buddies, or spending countless long afternoons on the golf course cultivating business relationships. But, I would argue, neither can they depend solely on flashy messages and empty promises. Companies across all industries have learned the importance of loyal customers and repeat business. Businesses employ customer relations strategies, and training to ensure customers have the type of experience that makes them want to come back again and again. Companies that realize consumers have options and strive to provide the best customer service will have more success than those that don’t value customer relations.
What about employee relationships and relationships with colleagues? Think about those you interact with in a professional manner on a daily basis. Do you want to work with someone you don’t like? The teamwork concept is very popular in business today, as is the use of cross functional teams for projects and problem solving. How effective are these teams if team members can’t stand each other? Conversely, how much more successful are they likely to be if they genuinely enjoy working with each other? Let’s not fail to consider that people who like their coworkers tend to like their job more than those who don’t. Happy employees are simply better employees, especially since you may be asking them to work longer and harder.
Likewise, it is important to be liked and respected in your industry or by members of related industries. People still care about reputation and value referrals. When is the last time someone asked you if you knew a good babysitter, plumber or insurance agent and you replied, “I know John Doe, he is unfriendly, rude and treats his clients badly, let me give you his number.”
Emailing, texting and juggling a call on your cell phone while trying to order at the coffee shop are reality in business today. As is telecommuting , video, Skype and phone conferencing. But, consider taking the time to invite a colleague to lunch and showing a genuine interest in who they are and what they do. Or, if they are hundreds or thousands of miles away, make a personal connection via phone or video. Even online, interact with those LinkedIn connections you barely know. Find out a little about who they are, what they value, and just be friendly. I think you will find, even in the rush of a fast paced business world, the return on your investment in people and relationships is invaluable.