NEW: Michael Phillips

Sure, email is a very effective busines tool. But it can also stifle good business relationships.

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Michael Phillips

Like love, email “is a many splendid thing”. I don’t have to harp on about the time savings, cost savings and every other saving in using email, but with so much business being conducted via email these days we have to consider the pitfalls in written communication.

I have a belief that email is the death of business relationships. This theory extends to personal relationships with the likes of iPods, Playstations and SMS texting, but I’ll leave that for another article.

Relationships in business are what not only sets you apart from your competitors, but also ensures your business is a success. Whether it be relationships among staff, suppliers or customers, communication is paramount. The problem is that the most effective form of communication is verbal, and yet, more and more, we are taking the “easy option” by using email. 

Everybody has had the experience of an email being taken the wrong way, primarily because it is harder to put “tone” or express feelings in an email. You could of course use “smiley” faces and numerous exclamation marks, but I doubt whether anyone will take you seriously.

Other than providing a niche, small to medium sized enterprises can only compete with larger organisations on service. In particular, the ability to deliver a more personalised, harmonised and caring relationship with customers.

To do this, we cannot discount the importance of verbal communication. Pick the phone up and call your customer, get up from your desk and go and see that employee 10 metres away, and if you have time go and visit the supplier you’ve been dealing with for five years and see how their business is performing.

The most effective feedback is not from “hits” on the website, or “conversion rates” to a new advertising program – it’s talking to as many people as possible and putting this knowledge in to a workable solution.

The other surprising element in this area is competitors. Talk to your competitors as often as you can; you will be surprised what you can learn from someone trying to achieve the same thing as you.

As for “networking functions”, these are a great idea, but why you need a business card is beyond me. I have a massive collection of business cards in my drawer but haven’t taken a second look since I last saw them through the bottom of an empty schooner glass.

My advice is network as much as you can, in fact everyday is a networking opportunity. But you must be able to see the wood from the trees. You’ll meet 10 people and maybe one will be a real opportunity. Get this person’s name and number and make a phone call within 48 hours. Relationships are built on trust and trust can only develop from verbal communication.

If you build fantastic relationships with all your employees, suppliers and customers, you’ll not only deal with these people for decades, you’ll always be ahead of the next person and you will give your business the best chance to prosper.


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