As women, one of the things we’re known to be excellent at is building relationships. But how about when it comes time to leverage those to launch or grow a business? Too often, we’re hesitant because we don’t want to seem self-serving or aggressive, but it’s important to remember that relationships are “give and take”—they’re meant to be leveraged by you and others.
Think of it like this: Leveraging the relationships you’ve put so much time and effort into cultivating is not for personal gain. It’s to create value for consumers in your community, around the country and possibly the world. And it gives the person from whom you’re asking for help the opportunity to feel good, share advice and insights, make a connection, etc.
So whether or not you’re in a position to reciprocate right now, go ahead and ask. You’ll be on the “giving side” soon enough and be reminded that it’s tremendously rewarding to reach back, lift up and pay it forward. Here are a few expert tips to help you leverage your relationships to build an existing business or start a new one:
- Again, it’s okay: It’s okay to ask for help or a favor for the benefit of your business. No one will think any less of you; they might think even more.
- Don’t let fear hold you back: Let go of any worries you have about being judged or dismissed. Have the courage to ask for what you want/need.
- Distribute your “asks”: Don’t ask the same person for help all the time. Timing and frequency are everything when leveraging relationships.
- Never apologize: “I’m so sorry to ask you this, but…” If you want what you are requesting to be viewed with importance and value, avoid apologetic asking.
- Make it easy: Make it as easy as possible for the person you are asking for help to do it. If you’re communicating by email, use bullet points for clarity. If you ask on a phone call or in-person, follow up with an email that can be forwarded.
- Be specific: If there’s someone in a person’s network you’d like to meet, for example, send a link to the person’s LinkedIn profile and share why an introduction would be helpful.
- Look for opportunities to help others: You won’t be so hesitant to ask once you’ve had the opportunity to pay it forward. It’s incredibly rewarding to make an introduction that helps open a door to a new opportunity for someone else.
- Consider the next generation: Here’s another thought for building and leveraging relationships. Think how you can help a next generation woman business owner by giving advice or making an introduction. In turn, maybe she has fresh ideas to share or can teach you about an emerging technology.
Last, building and leveraging relationships as a woman business owner is a constant if you want to grow. So put yourself out there. Surround yourself with people who are like-minded and understand the journey. Talk confidently about your dreams and goals. When you continually put yourself out there, good things are bound to happen.
There’s a tremendous opportunity for this when NAWBO comes together in Austin, Texas next month to power the dreams of hundreds of women business owners. Join us at the National Women’s Business Conference, and if you are a young woman entrepreneur, at the NextGen Forum. You’ll walk away with incredible new relationships—and so much more—to leverage in the coming months!