There’s a famous adage about the need to continually evolve—which is, “if you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still.” This is true in everyday life, and it’s just as true, if not more so, in business development. If you’re not regularly developing and improving yourself (and your products or brand, etc.), then you’re not going to be getting anywhere. The following are 5 easy ways that you can develop yourself and your business relationships to stay on track. Know Where You’ve Been, So You Can See Where You’re Going
In the moment, it’s easy to lose focus on your goals and negate all your accomplishments. After all, if you only look at where you’re currently standing, all you’ll be able to see is that you’re not yet at the place you want to be. And, while it’s normal to feel this way occasionally, there is one very important thing you can do to counteract this sense of stagnation and negativity. Implementing this will in turn keep you motivated and help to maintain a positive outlook as you work towards your goals.
The key is to track where you’ve been, so that you can see exactly where you’re going. By paying attention to your starting point, you can regularly review what you’ve learned along the way and apply it to your current and future goals. Through your progress, you’ll be able to see your life and accomplishments as a series of smaller victories (and setbacks, which become victories once you can learn from them), instead of monumental goals (and failures) that can become overwhelming by sheer virtue of their size. This is why it always feels so much easier to complete five small tasks than it does to conquer one huge one. When the next benchmark is within reach, you’ll be more easily able to push past any discomfort to accomplish your goals. Keep Your Friends Close and Your Connections Closer
Network! Network! Network! Business is all about relationships—and you never know when your next great relationship will develop. Whether it’s a relationship that has been handed to you (a new boss, for example) or a relationship that you have to actively pursue (like a potential future business partner met at a ballgame), making connections is one of the most important aspects of the business world. After all, we’ve all heard the saying that it’s not who you are but who you know. This means that you should never stop networking. Create an atmosphere of camaraderie in the office, introduce yourself to your neighbors, keep in touch with old professors and employers, maintain an up-to-date LinkedIn profile, engage in conversation with anyone you can, and never stop putting yourself out there. Even those people outside of your area of expertise can be great practice for working on your charm and charisma and learning how to sell yourself (and your business ideas). No introduction is ever wasted on someone who understands the importance of making connections and forming relationships in creating great business deals and developments. Relationships Are a Two-Way Street
Relationships are a two-way street, which is to say that all parties should be putting in similar effort (and in return can expect to reap similar rewards). However, that doesn’t mean that everything will always happen in the short term or that it will always seem balanced in the moment. Relationships grow and develop over time, changing and improving, faltering and recovering, and then growing some more. There is an ebb and flow to human connections and investment, and while you don’t want to over-extend yourself with people who don’t value your time and effort (in other words, people who take advantage of you), you also don’t want to keep a ‘tally’ of who has done what and for whom in the relationship. Additionally, the power dynamic of the people involved won’t always be the same, particularly when it comes to business relationships (which often include mentoring). But over time, there will be a return on the investment you put in. If you treat others with kindness, respect, empathy, and generosity, the benefits will be returned to you in multiples. Listen Up and Ask the Right Questions!
It’s a natural desire to want to be a problem-solver, to be the person everyone looks to for the solution. However, in business development, it can be so very important to listen first, ask second, and answer third. Additionally, a big part of listening is then being able to ask the right kinds of questions. After all, how can you know which are the right questions to ask if you haven’t been listening to someone? For example, sometimes it’s more important to consider “Why is this problem occurring?” over the more obvious “How can we solve this problem?” Or even, “How can I help you?” rather than “Here’s in my opinion on the issue at hand.” Being a good listener, understanding what people are really
saying, and listening to what they need, is vital to getting ahead in business and important in all business relationships. Subsequently, learning how to ask the right kinds of questions is just as important. Ask open ended questions (to keep the conversation flowing and the flow of information moving), ask follow-up questions (to demonstrate your interest and engagement), and ask questions that pertain to your involvement (how can I help you?). Lastly, avoid questions that seek to place blame—remember you always want to be moving forward, not looking back. Reap What You Sow
In keeping with the language of business—you have to invest (in yourself and others) in order to see the gains you seek. This sentiment applies to all aspects of business development. Whether you’re wondering how to maintain your energy and motivation levels, curious about your struggling business relationships, or assessing a particular business agreement—the principle is the same. Pelé once said: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do
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