Thursday, November 06, 2008

Tree of Sustainable Business Relationships

Copyright Nov 2008, Sally Lever, Fruitful

I love trees and feel blessed to live in a house that is surrounded by them. Some are huge, majestic and noisy in wild, wintery weather. Some, like my recently planted crab apples, seem perilously fragile by comparison and very dependent on the wooden stakes that support them. It is autumn (fall) here in the UK and the native deciduous trees are quickly being stripped of their leaves by high winds and heavy rain, leaving their stretching forms silhouetted against the cool, grey skies.
Trees play such a large part in our lives. On a practical level, they are the lungs of the earth and they are each self sustaining eco-systems in their own right. On a more subtle level, they can be symbolic of many aspects of human life. I’ve used this idea to map out some ideas on maintaining sound, sustainable business relationships.

ROOTS

Groundedness – Ensure that you feel centred before any business meeting. Take time out to breathe, stretch, be in your body before conversations that require you to contribute or make decisions. Work on methods to keep your cool and build these into your daily routine.

TRUNK

Support – Keep a list of people in your mutual support network and maintain regular contact with them. Make it part of your routine to give to these people. You can give referrals, tips, a lift in your car, pointers to useful resources, etc.

Strength – Make maintaining your health and wellbeing a business priority as well as a personal one. You cannot function at your best with others when you are feeling under the weather.

Uprightness (integrity) – Know your personal and business values (qualities such as honesty, fairness, compassion, simplicity etc). Have these written down where you can refer to them often and where you can use them to make decisions.

BRANCHES

Vehicles of communication – Review how you communicate with clients, colleagues, employees and associates. Decide what needs to change, what needs freshening up, what needs to be stopped.

Flexibility – Make a point of asking for and listening to new ideas. Respond to complaints with curiosity and an open mind. Recognise the gift in the opinions of others. In particular, think of objections as opportunities to demonstrate your commitment and improve your service to others.

Growth – Look at your business relationships as a reflection on where you need to develop. Particularly think of the relationships you’re finding challenging. Make a note of what these tell you about yourself.

Reaching out – Make a note of what you currently do to “meet people where they are”. Check up on your clients’, suppliers’ and colleagues’ understanding of your business purpose. Aim to improve your methods for educating them on your offering and the benefits it will give them.

LEAVES

Relationship with (sun)light – Ponder on how you relate to your spiritual nature. Notice how that shows up in your business life, if it does at all. Make a point of using your intuition as well as your knowledge in your communication with others.

Nourishment – Ensure that you nourish your business relationships. You can do this by providing encouragement, practical support for others and inspiration. Remember also to provide yourself with regular doses of inspirational material.

FLOWERS

Beauty – Take some time to notice what is beautiful about your business and the people who are involved with it. Work on those elements that attract most clients to your business. Notice what keeps them hovering around. Use those strengths to under-promise and over-deliver.

Gratitude – Make space each day for expressing your gratitude to those with whom you work. This focuses people’s attention on their strengths and their successes and helps them to empower themselves to achieve even more.

FRUIT AND SEEDS

New life – Get together with others to start a new project or joint venture or rejuvenate an old one. When dealing with others in your profession or trade, focus on cooperation rather than competition, co-creation rather than power struggles.

Congratulations! – Celebrate your successes with those who helped you.

Sally Lever is a homeschool mum, small business operator, downshifter extraordinaire and Life Coach. Her regular newsletter arrives in my inbox in the nick of time when I need inspirational words that help me find my direction the most! Sally's beautiful generous nature combines with her tremendous empathy and insight - do yourself a favour and subscribe to her Fruitful newsletter to get a regular dose of uplifting wisdom too!

This article was reproduced with Sally's permission.