4 Smart Relationships That Will Accelerate Your Small Business’ Success


Walmart and Sam’s Club founder Sam Walton was a master relationship builder. As my mentor and friend, he taught me that the mark of a successful entrepreneur is strong relationships.

Sam once said, “We let folks know we’re interested in them and that they’re vital to us, ’cause they are.”

This couldn’t be truer. Without your customers, you don’t have a business. But these aren’t the only people who are vital to your success.

Networking and building relationships with other business owners requires a lot of time and effort, so it’s important to cultivate smart connections that will help your business gain momentum. The key is determining which relationships are worth your time, how they will benefit your business, and how to strengthen them. These relationships lead to new business ideas, long-term partnerships, growth, and an overall higher chance of success.

Here are four relationships small business owners should develop to help their businesses thrive:

1. A Successful Entrepreneur

If you picked a man off the street at random and asked him how to run your business, you’d probably receive an answer. But without any real business experience, his advice would be questionable. Small business owners will learn the most from someone who has gone through the growing pains, strategic pivots, struggles, and successes that accompany the development of a business.

Amidst his success, Sam maintained his humility, which helped him make better decisions. He taught me to constantly ask questions. Business owners who seek advice from people who have experience building a business will be able to avoid some of the most common pitfalls and set their companies up for early success.

2. Someone With a Different Skill Set

Building relationships with people who are just like you is boring and can be a waste of time. People who have different skill sets and backgrounds challenge your assumptions, push your boundaries, and help you learn to think more deeply.

My long-time business partner is the perfect match for me because he sheds new light on situations and has strengths that compensate for my weaknesses. Together, we’re able to do a lot more than either of us could accomplish separately. Working with someone whom I trust to give me his honest opinion — but who holds a different perspective — is so valuable when running a business.

3. Local Business Owners

Regardless of your industry, other business owners in your area are a great resource. Although your mentor can provide guidance, he won’t always be available. Local business leaders can offer insight into problems specific to your community, whether it’s over lunch or simply in passing on the street.

Two of my good friends own a law practice and have an office in our building. We meet for lunch whenever we’re all in town to discuss what we’re doing in our businesses, current events, and new ideas. Our time together gets us thinking and keeps us engaged.

4. People in Your Industry

No matter where they’re located, building relationships with leaders and influencers in your industry is a must. It’s vital to have connections with other people who share your mission, your passion, and your purpose.

At my company, we look for partners who share these commonalities, and the relationships we’ve formed based on these criteria have been incredibly helpful.

One of the fundamental lessons I learned as a kid was that you are the company you keep, and not every relationship is beneficial. This principle still rings true as an adult, especially in business.

But when you find people who sharpen and strengthen your skills, it’s important to hold on to them. Small business owners need relationships with people who will support them, help them, and challenge them.

None of us can do it alone — that’s one of the great myths of entrepreneurship.

This article was originally published on SCORE.org.

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton is an entrepreneur and NFL Hall of Famer, and the founder of GoSmallBiz.com and Tarkenton Companies. With a passion for small business, he’s started more than 20 businesses during and after his NFL career. Fran is a small business coach for entrepreneurs and business owners, providing advice and guidance through sites such as GoSmallBiz.com, SmallBizClub.com, and more. He has written about business issues in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. New and World Report, and USA Today, along with regular appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. You can follow Fran on Twitter @Fran_Tarkenton.