Why Relationships Matter

Steps to Relationships That Build Business Success

The most important thing in my life has been the value of relationships. The most important thing in my business life? All about relationships. In my athletic life? All about relationships. In my family life? All about relationships. If you don’t have great relationships on your football team, in your family, school, or business, then you’re going to have conflict and things won’t get done.

But what does building great relationships really mean? It starts by treating people with respect. Not just the people who can do something for you, people who are “important” or “powerful.” Everyone.

I saw the power of relationships first hand in my time with Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. I met Mr. Sam in the early 1980s, when he was already hugely successful and I was still a young(er) entrepreneur. He invited me to store openings and events all over the country, and I watched and listened as he interacted with so many different people. What I saw was a man who had incredible relationship-building gifts. Not only with his relationship with me, but with everyone he encountered. It was a marvel to see and experience.

Mr. Sam could walk into any store, approach the people there and engage in real conversation—genuine talk, not disingenuous photo ops. He had a way of inspiring instant trust and transparency, and he would talk openly and honestly with the employees about their thoughts. How was the store working? What items were selling? What wasn’t selling? What might they do to improve? He was the CEO, but he had a way of ensuring that no one felt intimidated by his presence—no one felt like they needed to just tell him what he wanted to hear, because all he wanted to hear was the truth. To Mr. Sam, they were not just employees; they were associates, and that word really meant something to him. Even in just a brief interaction, Mr. Sam showed people respect and treated them with dignity. By engaging with other people, he learned more about his business than he ever could have figured out on his own, and he used what he learned to continually improve.

I watched him closely, and talked with him and asked him questions about his approach to relationship-building, and that has in turn influenced the way I build my businesses and engage with all the people around me. To be successful in business, we have to be innovative and creative. But we can’t be innovative and creative if we’re not curious and talking to others. And that only happens if we have relationships that are built on trust, on doing the right thing, on respect. It sounds simple, but it’s critically important to any success we have in life.

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.