Business 101: Keeping in touch in the times of Covid-19
By Ben Bierman
WHILE Covid-19 has forever changed the business landscape, building and sustaining strong relationships remains a key component of success for start-ups and small businesses new to a specific market or industry.
Normal routes such as meetings and networking that were used to nurture these relationships have all but vanished. It is therefore vital to create new channels to share business know-how and increase profiles.
Here are some tips to navigate the new normal:
Relationships take time to develop and are built on genuine interest and mutual benefit. The key is regular contact. But the interactions do not have to be monotonous, they can vary from a call to say thank you, to introducing a useful contact, sending an interesting article or referring a client. Even asking for advice is a good way to make someone feel important. Don’t leave them to spontaneity but to planning and schedule.
Social network is no longer a nice-to-have. Maintain your presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as you would your appearance – neat and fresh. It is often the first impression a customer or contact has of you. Approach networking for what it is – a crucial business system; just like your accounting, human resources, or production system. Spend time thinking about it, working on it and maintaining it. Ask yourself questions around the goals of your networking efforts and re-evaluate your approach.
Before reaching out to strangers, start with existing clients, suppliers and business associates and gradually add new people. A healthy business network has a constant stream of new contacts coming in as well as having old ones removed as their relevance fades. Start with an hour a week, be consistent and build from there.
Get involved with business councils and other networking groups to mingle with others on the same journey as you, albeit online or within social distancing measures. Sharing your business knowledge and experience will contribute to the stability and growth of another small-to-medium-sized enterprise, and will no doubt be returned in kind, sometime in the future.
Remove redundant entries and reprioritise each contact so you invest most of your time and energy in the most important ones. Ensure that you keep their details up to date and that you at least have more than one way of connecting in case an email address changes, for example.
Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited