This past week I was out for lunch with one of the vendors we do business with regularly and they said something that surprised me, "it's great you and your team know the owner so well and all of their business but dont forget that it's the trades that help you to build your business and it's just as important to know them the same way you know your owners".
The statement surprised me because I know how important it is to know your trade partners (such a the firestopping trade) but it was interesting to hear the other sides take on it. Relationships are a very important part of not just the construction industry but many other industries and the way we all do business.
Why Is It Important to Build Strong Relationships
I am still developping my career but the one key thing I tell all of the younger people that come in and do work for us is to build relationships with the people their own age. If you plan to stay in a market for a period of time, relationship building is critical.
Strong relations with someone can help you to be handed new work (instead of competitively bidding) or on the flip side help you beat out those other vendors on a competitive bid. They can also make your job easier by giving you someone you know you can always rely on, to be the driving force in a project, to get you out of a messy project or just someone to bounce ideas off of and get the honest truth from. A strong relationship with consultants can make the design and construction process less combatative.
Those are really just a few of the many benefits of a good relationship with people in the construction industry.
How Do I Start?
As I mentioned above, the new members on my team are strongly encouraged to build new relationships with people their own age. Some of the strongest relationships I have are ones that I've developed over the years with people my own age. As we've both grown in our organizations so have our responsibilities and the things we can help eachother out with. There's a special bond people gain when they see eachother growing together.
Beyond that method there are plenty of ways you can build relationships with people besides just working with them regularly. The simplest is inviting someone out for a coffee or drink and getting to know the person. Thats an easy way to start, showing someone you do what you say you will is a good way of developing that further, if you promise someone something follow through on it, people will learn to trust you.
Meeting people can sometimes be a challenge, you will inevitably meet new people throughout your career just through exposure to various projects, however if you're looking for other opportunities consider industry nights or networking events. Trade shows, talks and other events that bring together large groups of individuals that have similar interests are great ways.
Lastly, the biggest thing I've found to help build relationships with people is just to ask them for their opinion on something, make people feel like they matter to the process and to how you approach their work.Who Should I Focus My Relationship Building On?
The simple answer to this question is anyone.
The longer and more complicated answer is that it depends on what your goal is and what you want to get out of it. Here's a list of just a few people you can build upon.
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Feel free to share some of your big relationships and how they've benefitted your career below in the comments.