Ever get the feeling that building relationships are more than just another business skill?

Everyone talks about relationship building in business. Networking, customer service, employee satisfaction and development, all key areas that involve relationship building. But I feel relationships are more fundamental than just a skill you need to nail on the head to be good at your job.

Imagine for a minute that you get through life, you have had a successful career, achieved the goals you set yourself, found your true love and started a family. Your social life has been buzzing and you have an army of people that have got your back, sticking with you through the bad times, as well as celebrating the good times. It’s hard to imagine that story unfolding without the influence of positive relationships.

For me, relationships are, and always have been a foundation of my life not just work. Sounds obvious I know, but it’s true. And I fundamentally believe you can’t achieve anything in life without solid, positive and constructive relationships.

Building relationships, without a doubt, has been key to our success, and in some cases, lack of, in my life to date. Whether that be with parents, siblings or friends, they have always been a fundamental part of my personal support structure, as well as a source of constant fun, challenge and love.

Conversely, bad relationships, relationships that weren’t given the time or attention to flourish, relationships that I was perhaps too immature (at the time) to fully appreciate, deteriorated and had a negative impact on my journey through business and life. I’m sure we can all pick a few from our school years, albeit teachers, classmates or even those family members we never had time for until it was too late.

These relationships and their development play a pivotal role in our lives, so if that is the case in life generally then, of course, the same will apply in business and typically, with more extreme implications both positive and negative.

For me personally, I am a total believer that you can achieve anything if you focus on building solid relationships. And as such this has been instrumental in the growth and development so far of Sleeping Giant Media.

SGM is built on three core values, “Delighting our clients”, “Leading in the application of digital marketing” and “Making people GIANT”, however, two things glue these principles together and keep the brand moving: GIANT personalities building incredible relationships.

And fundamentally those Giant personalities have been found, forged and developed due to a focus on relationship building.

The relationships with our clients, our suppliers and partners, and just as importantly, our fellow GIANTs, are what makes our agency tick. We’ve proven time and time again that if you put the relationship first and build trust through transparency, you can overcome any challenge that comes your way. We deal with humans, we should never forget that.

Some of our longest standing client relationships have weathered tough times, business and personal challenges and the reality that no one is perfect. In real life, mistakes happen and we have bad days, no matter who is at fault, it’s the relationship that will carry you through and the importance can’t be understated. It’s at these moments that humanistic skills like empathy and understanding come into play. Seeing things from others perspective is sometimes all it takes to defuse a situation or to provide encouragement. We all have good and bad days, appreciating this is the first step.

In the same vein, to really be successful as a team, you have to work on building that relationship internally, developing trust and transparency and fostering an environment where challenge and confrontation are welcomed to help keep us moving forward.

It’s easier said than done though. Some people are natural ‘people people’ and form relationships with ease. Others need to consciously work on how they interact with people. We/I have definitely made some mistakes and still do. We’re not perfect, but I wanted to highlight some of the lessons I have learnt in an attempt to make things easier for you in the future:

– Emails rarely make a relationship, but they can break one! Don’t over-rely on electronic comms and remember, it is all too easy to misinterpret tone in an email, pick up the phone or visit them in person. Back up what you have said in an email. Not something to hold them accountable too, but something that confirms you are both on the same page.

– Don’t write an email when you are fired up about something. But, if you do, get someone you trust to check it first! Remember you can’t take it back, and it is all too easy to hit send when you are not sat face to face with the recipient. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, the chances are you shouldn’t say it in an email.

– Remember that every interaction impacts a relationship, whether that is someone’s first tour of the office, the first connection at a networking event, or answering the phone to a client. These are all key touch points, don’t neglect any of them. First impressions are a real thing, and as humans, we remember negative experiences so make sure you always start off on the front foot.

– Never burn relationships… ever! it’s better to have friends or even just “acquaintances” than enemies. We don’t generally “win” by making enemies, but it can certainly lead to a loss. It’s not worth it, even if it gives you some short-term satisfaction.

So how does all of the above actually impact the running of Sleeping Giant Media? Well, in summary, we recruit based on a number of factors, but the key is to ensure the people we recruit can build relationships and understand their importance above all else… there are no techies! Well, actually, there are, but they are all incredible people that you’d love to work with and talk to!

When we have a recruitment day we order a ton of pizza (an actual metric tonne). We invite all of the giants to come down and mingle with the candidates. We take the feedback of our people seriously before making our final decisions. It is, after all, the other people in the business who will build those relationships.

We champion, measure and scorecard communications within our business and externally to ensure we are building and cementing those relationships through proactive, constructive and regular communications (not just emails!) and we recognise the fact that we are dealing with real people. Not brands. Not employees. Not suppliers.

As people, we all want positive relationships in our lives, in business or otherwise, so to get the best outcomes, focus on relationship building.

Imagine an existence without positive relationships. It’s very rare that you’ll reach the end of your days and wish you had stressed your opinions stronger, or that you put that customer back in their place. Instead, we look at the positives that we may have missed out on, and there is nothing more human than the ability to cohabit and coexist alongside other humans. Simple really.

– Ant Klokkou