What kind of relationships are we talking about?
- Vendors. I am not aware of a business that does not rely on a number of vendors that support the business. Everyone outsources something. Office space, legal, accounting, recruiting, widgets, mustard, scissors . . . the list goes on. Treat them well and they will treat you well; kind the golden rule of relationships.
- Advisors. I can’t state often enough that the long tail of entrepreneurship is survived by building an informal set of advisors that are willing to serve you (and not the business per se). There will be dark times. Who are you going to reach out to for advice or just to listen to you vent?
- Friends. No, not the show (though if that brings you comfort go for it). You will need to blow off steam. You will need to exercise. You will need that camaraderie that has this subtle but powerful effect on your mind. Friends are there for all of that. It is why I play ice hockey late on Monday nights. And the beer.
- Family. Who loves you unconditionally? Who supports your brilliant mind with that unfiltered encouragement? Keeping close to family including parents, siblings, spouse, and children provides you with balance. They support you and call bullshit when its needed. Yet, they are the first group we push down the list.
- Investors. Your investor relationship if pretty important for the business, and you. Don’t be that person who only tells them good news (big rookie mistake that will come back to haunt you). Your investors are more like family than vendors; you have to make that call on a regular basis to share what is going on.
- Employees. You cajole, you raise your voice, you plan, you change plans, you celebrate, and you grieve with these people every day. They ride the roller coaster with you. They sacrifice and commit to your vision. Create, build and augment these relationships EVERY day.
- Customers. I listed these guys last as they are the most important relationship you need to foster. Regardless of whether you are a $9.99 per month SaaS company or a food truck, you better wake up every morning with your customer on your mind. I am still amazed at the founders/executives who think their product is front and center to their business.
How would you rank these in order of importance? Which ones are you forgetting about?
Posted by Chris Heivly
Speaker, investor, mentor, startup founder. One of 3 or 4 Co-Founders of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2B). Managing Director of $25M Venture Fund in late 90's. CEO, COO or President of various companies ranging from $200k to $20M in size. Currently, I am one of two Managing Directors of The Startup Factory making 10-14 seed investments per year, founder and MC of the Big Top Job Fair and national writer and speaker waxing poetic around startups and startup communities.