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Start-up Advice

Understanding The Art Of Relationship Brokering

Here are seven tips on negotiating relationships in the business landscape.

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Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the fulcrum of our economic engine; not only in South African but across the African continent. In South Africa, they provide employment to about 60% of our labour force and they plug-in various gaps in a number of industry value chains, facilitating the effective running of said industries.

Equally important, SMEs are, as South African Reserve Bank Deputy Governor, Francois Groepe asserts, “an essential conduit whereby millions of people enter the economic and social mainstream of a society.”

Through small businesses, the everyman has relatively unfettered access to an otherwise cryptic and many a time, exclusive realm. At a time when our economy needs us all to pull and push together, they present an effective pathway to economic inclusion.

With this in mind, supporting small businesses could not be more urgent. In South Africa, SMEs make up 91% of formalised businesses and are responsible for 34% of our GDP. These are huge numbers that can be bigger the more support there is for SMEs.

Related: 5 Different Types Of Businesses

We need platforms that facilitate entrepreneurship and small business growth, like the Small Business Expo which is the evolution of 20 years of Thebe Reed Exhibitions’ dedication to entrepreneurship.

The exhibition, focuses on facilitating relationship brokering between small business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, franchisors, corporate leaders and business hubs and incubators. Through effective relationship brokering, small business owners connect and support each other, and grow their establishments.

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1. Know your own story, and know it well

Sharing your story – whether it’s your business proposition, your skill set or a project you are working on – is a determinant of successful relationship brokering. You have to know your story, and know it well enough to share it in a compelling manner. Your story is part of the collateral you leave any prospective business connections.

2. Relationship brokering builds social capital

Your own and the social capital of those around you. It’s a process that, when done right, builds your influence and profiles your authority. Not only do you get a chance for people to know you, but also for people to get to know what you do and the pedigree you possess as a business owner, entrepreneur or professional. You position yourself, on an uninterrupted stage that is formal yet relaxed and personal.

3. Relationship brokering is about building sustainable communities of people and businesses that complement each other

It’s about fostering collaboration where synergies exist and enabling connections where business opportunities exist. Beyond that, a successfully built community becomes the support structure to members of its network.

Related: 4 Types Of Business Models

4. Build and maintain bridges

Don’t put yourself first. Pay attention to your business associates and connections. Ascertain their needs and assist them in addressing those needs. During that process, you profile your own skill set and showcase what you and your business can do. This is important as relationship brokering is only self-serving to a point. If it becomes a one-way street, connections crumble because no one wants to be involved in a one-way relationship.

5. Relationship brokering facilitates sharing

Relationships are about mutual value and this mutual value is not only monetary but also about shared objectives, visions and ambitions. This connection must allow parties to draw value strategically for the outcome of a business endeavour or opportunity. The shared value can include knowledge, skills transference or specialist experience – whatever the attribute, achieving mutual value is the objective of the relationship.

6. Quality trumps quantity

Relationship brokering is not a business card collection contest after all. Focus on those businesses and personalities who are stakeholders in your industry’s value chain. Always remember that one quality business relationship surpasses a rolodex of business cards who have no link to your work or industry.

Related: 9 Answers You Need About Yourself Before Starting Your Own Business

7. Do follow up. Do reach out

Many of us do more than enough sharing of contact details but not enough following up and reaching out. Follow up to legitimise the connection and start building a relationship.

Carol is an award winning business woman with over 30 years of experience in the business tourism and events, working across many sectors within the industry. She is the managing director and shareholder of Thebe Reed Exhibitions, a joint venture between Thebe Tourism Group, one of South Africa’s first black economic empowerment companies and Reed Exhibitions, a subsidiary of the RELX Group. Under her leadership, Thebe Reed Exhibitions has become one of the largest and most successful exhibition and venue management companies in Southern Africa and is well positioned to expand its footprint across Africa, with many new ventures in the pipeline.

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Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden

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You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden

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Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck

luck

This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black

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Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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