Executive Alliances: Building Business Relationships for Strategic Advantage

Executive Alliances: Building Business Relationships for Strategic Advantage

By Cara Sloman, CEO, Force4 Technology Communications 

In the fast-paced business world, cultivating strong strategic alliances is crucial for successful leadership and strategy. Forging strong alliances provides a competitive edge, leading to enhanced insights, collaborative opportunities and strategic advantages. Let’s explore the types of business relationships and best practices for building them. 

Key principles and benefits of building strategic relationships 

Trust, communication and value are the key principles in building strategic relationships. For leaders, strong business relationships are critical to success. You can develop and strengthen your leadership abilities and improve business outcomes based on the insights and feedback you are able to glean from a trusted network.  

Making these relationships a priority offers numerous advantages. These include learning from the experience and expertise of others, gaining more customer referrals, enlarging your network and even increasing your job prospects. By forging these partnerships, you are likely to learn information that will advance your company and/or your career. Getting feedback from others will help you know how to set your priorities. Spending time with a group of high-functioning individuals will not only sharpen but also demonstrate your leadership capabilities. As you interact with such people, you will recognize their strengths, which will spur your own growth.  

For example, at Force4, over 80% of our business is with people we’ve worked with before. These CEOs and marketing leaders are happy repeat customers who know us and trust us to deliver. This is a testament to our ability to form solid, positive and long-lasting relationships that fuel our business year after year. 

Types of business relationships 

Harvard professor Pamela Rucker has identified four standard types of business relationships. Of course, it starts with the people you interact with every day at work: your team and stakeholders. These are the people you depend on to help you execute your company’s strategic work. Because these are your closest work relationships, you should prioritize succeeding together. Learn to collaborate and communicate well. 

Clients are in the next group. By staying closely connected to them, you’ll get a better sense of what they need and then be able to create solutions for them. Create customer delight by over-delivering whenever possible and by following up quickly whenever they reach out to you. This will build trust and camaraderie that will strengthen your relationships. 

Ecosystem relationships are also important. These are your tactical allies who help you deliver for your customers or clients. Vendors, operators and developers are examples. You won’t typically work with these individuals on a daily basis, but it’s still important to nurture these relationships so that you stay on the same page and remain effective. 

You’ll also want to maintain your industry relationships. This will help you keep tabs on what’s happening in your industry and what your competitors are up to, which are essential to your business’s success. Chatting with your industry contacts will help you stay informed about news, new products, innovative technology and personnel moves.  

Best practices for building business relationships 

  • Keep in touch! Consistently reach out to your network to check in on what they’re working on, what they’re seeing in the market, how their kids are doing and so on. Provide something of value, be it personal or professional, that offers assistance, advice and support to your connections.  For example, you can offer network referrals for job seekers and/or service seekers. Look for opportunities to collaborate or assist them in their endeavors, such as brainstorming/ideation based on whatever challenges they are encountering. At Force4, this often comes in the form of strategic recommendations and introductions.  
  • Seek their perspective and be genuinely interested in their suggestions. Asking for constructive feedback is one of the best ways to show respect. Seeking feedback creates trust and opportunities to strengthen the relationship. It helps you gain perspective and other ways of looking at things. This also provides an opportunity to learn from other’s mistakes.  
  • Find ways to connect virtually and in person. Make the most of email or social media platforms, lunches, drinks, dinners and other networking events. Be the friendly, familiar face in the crowd.  
  • Connect and educate; this is not the time for the hard sell. Nurturing relationships requires a genuine commitment to the connection. Share relevant insights and engage in meaningful discussions.  
  • Build trust. This is all about integrity and demonstrating your worth as a business connection by authentically showing up in the world and following through on your commitments.   
  • Focus on the long term. Building a sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship takes time; don’t over-rotate on short-term gains. 

Cultivate strategic alliances 

Forming strategic business relationships can help you learn new things, grow your referral business, build brand advocates, sharpen your skills, expand your network and gain/retain clients for future successful outcomes. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Make sure you are cultivating the four main types of business relationships with a genuine spirit of mutual benefit, and you will be on your way to cementing your company’s place in your chosen industry. 


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