Yesterday, a colleague and I were digging up some facts for an interview I was doing. We were both thrilled to discover that the first ever experience provider we signed to RedBalloon is still with us to this day – 12 years on.
This got me to thinking…
“How many businesses can claim to have healthy long-term relationships with the suppliers, clients, or even the employees who were there at the very beginning?”
In business, as in life, I am all about building and nurturing relationships. I want to take care of those who take care of me. Be that our long-standing original suppliers; the office stationery store in Balmain that still arms our 60+ person office with pens, paper and post-it notes each month; or the RedBalloon employees.
None of these things are by accident. We designed them to be this way by creating and fostering happy relationships. I am a big believer in ‘what goes around comes around’. And loyalty does still mean something in business.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our fair share of break ups. Even though we’re a celebrated best employer, there was a time (more than five years ago) when there seemed to be more employees leaving rather than staying.
We’d hit a point in our growth journey that was “make or break”. We’d grown so fast that a lot of the procedures we needed in place to keep our people happy were simply not there. But we resolved that issue and have grown from strength to strength each year – featuring on the BRW Best Places to Work list four times running, with a bunch of self-confessed happy employees. We identified the problem and set about fixing it. It takes absolute commitment, determination and persistence.
But it’s important to note that not everything needs “fixing”. Take the local stationery store I mentioned – yes, we could go to a larger business and perhaps save a few dollars along the way. But business relationships are more than a simple financial transaction of “I give you this and you give me that”.
When I walk into that shop the owner knows my name. When we miss something off the order, they’ll pop it aside or have it sent out. If we need something specific that isn’t in stock, they’ll order it in for us. We don’t just receive a product from them; they’re part of our business community.
I urge everyone to start treating their business relationships in the same way we view our personal ones. I’m not saying you need to send your office supplies provider a birthday card – although that would be a nice touch – but simply take a moment to think about the difference these relationships make to your own business and treat those people as you would your own employees.
Like in any relationship, there is give and there is take; but in the end both parties have each other’s best interest at heart. And combined, we can create happier workplaces everywhere. After all – who said you could not have fun in business?
Naomi Simson has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au, including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.