01 February 2012

Damn these interruptions…

Most people would tend to agree that relationships are really important for business success, but building these relationships takes a solid commitment of time and energy. But when you feel stressed out, exhausted, are working really long hours, under financial pressure and struggling to stay on top of things, the idea of taking time out to build relationships is not overly appealing.

In reality, investing time and energy now will generally make our life easier tomorrow. Let me use the example of “delegation” to illustrate my point.

There is no doubt that if you can delegate some of your responsibilities your life will become a little easier and if you get very good at delegating, your life will become much easier. Delegating a task takes time to teach other people the skills or the systems required to take on a particular task or duty. In the midst of a typically crazy day you probably think, ‘it’s easier to do it myself’. How many times have we all said that? So rather than delegating, we take on more responsibilities and duties every day, until we burst at the seams.

I know firsthand how easy it is to put tasks before building relationships. Back when I had a larger office with about ten staff, I tended to start work earlier than everyone else. It gave me a little quiet time before the phone started to ring and the demands of the day kicked in.

From about 8 a.m. my team started to arrive. They liked to drop into my office to say hello and have a chat about anything on their minds. This used to drive me crazy—I had already been working for at least an hour or two and I was in full swing. Ten people dropping by to say hello cost me about an hour a day, at a time when I was trying to beat the clock to get things done. I came to dread the sound of the front door opening because I knew that it meant I would spend the next hour being distracted.

I looked at this hour as a total waste of my time, but I also knew that the people I worked with needed the interaction, some social chitchat and a chance to ask questions and plan for the day ahead. In spite of this, I was getting more and more frustrated until one day my frustration reached overload.

I knew that I had to change my attitude and I decided to look at this one hour as an opportunity and an investment in my business, not an irritation. I decided that every day from 8 a.m. till 9 a.m. I wouldn’t plan anything other than meeting and greeting my team, planning the projects for the day and generally getting to know everyone a little better. I decided to enjoy this time instead of resenting it. And what a change this made.

From that day on I looked forward to everyone arriving – 8am was no longer the start of “hell hour”. I got to know more about the people I worked with and we communicated more openly, in a much more relaxed way, allowing us to work better as a team. In fact, if I was out of town I missed this interaction with my team a lot.

As always, the shift required is a mental one. Look at the time spent building relationships as an investment, not a chore. The stronger your relationship with your customers the more loyal they will be. The stronger your relationship with your staff the more likely they will be to do the extra things that will make your life easier. The stronger your relationship with someone who can refer your business, the more referrals you will get.

Regardless of the desired outcome, a relationship of any sort is like a plant, it takes time, energy and the right environment to grow. Look at the time and energy spent building relationships as a wonderful investment opportunity, not a chore.


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