EO member Marion Long discusses building a business through relationships in Inside Business December 2014.

You’re in business for yourself, building your company from the ground up. There is quite a bit of excitement.

You feel as if your energy is a renewable resource. It doesn’t feel like work. That’s in the early stages of business growth. That’s when you, the owner/entrepreneur, are wearing multiple hats. You are the IT professional, the billing specialist, the director of marketing and the list goes on.

Your first customers benefit from this high level of energy and excitement. Oftentimes, new businesses get the first customers quickly. Their commendable work leads to word-of-mouth referrals and the development of new customers. More times than not, businesses retain those initial customers long into the life of their business.

Why? Here’s the secret.

It’s not only because you are offering a better product than anyone else in your field. It’s the authentic relationship that has been built between the customer and yourself. The result is a perceived barrier to exit for that customer. The customer is less likely to be torn away even for a cost savings if he or she feels the relationship has value.

Here’s what I have learned managing strategic development and direction for Therapeutic Interventions. In six years, I have taken the agency from concept to a multimillion dollar business that employs more than 140 staff over multiple locations.

Relationships matter. They will ensure your stability. Relationships are also important within your organization. There have been hundreds of business books written on establishing a healthy culture in your business. However, every culture begins with relationships with your staff.

In small-to-medium-sized businesses, change is inevitable and it can be stressful on employees if they don’t have a good understanding of the business.

As an entrepreneur, taking time to have conversations with your staff to understand what their goals are and how they see themselves within your business, is crucial. This gives them the sense that you are concerned about their well-being and are interested in their future goals. And you are.

Relationships are then formed and a level of trust is developed. This level of trust will allow the owner to focus on building the business and it allows the employee to take one of your many hats and flourish within that role.

The largest, most successful businesses don’t have owners barking orders and leading with intimidation. They have owners who have found key staff that are good at what they do and have developed healthy relationships with those staff.

In turn, those same staff are running the business like their own and are making sound business decisions without the direction of the owner. Just like with the customer, a barrier to exit is developed with the employee.

A key executive is much less likely to even look for another job if they feel appreciated and feel as though they have a relationship with their employer. These staff relationships build trust, foster a positive environment and create a naturally healthy culture.

When you make a conscious effort to be authentic and build real relationships with your customers and staff, your business will grow and your corporate culture will flourish effortlessly.

At the end of the day, employees continue to work for people they enjoy working for, and customers continue to do business with people they trust.

It is rare for employees and customers to be drawn toward and feel tied to companies. Rather, they feel committed to and drawn toward people with whom they have developed a relationship.

Time invested in building those relationships will result in profit and stability.

Marion Long is the CEO of Therapeutic Interventions Inc., which offers school-based day treatment and short-term foster care programs for at-risk children in Virginia. He is also the president-elect of the Southeast Virginia chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a nonprofit that is a peer-to-peer network for entrepreneurs. He can be reached at (757) 442-6147.

Why? Here’s the secret.

It’s not only because you are offering a better product than anyone else in your field. It’s the authentic relationship that has been built between the customer and yourself. The result is a perceived barrier to exit for that customer. The customer is less likely to be torn away even for a cost savings if he or she feels the relationship has value.

Here’s what I have learned managing strategic development and direction for Therapeutic Interventions. In six years, I have taken the agency from concept to a multimillion dollar business that employs more than 140 staff over multiple locations.

Relationships matter. They will ensure your stability. Relationships are also important within your organization. There have been hundreds of business books written on establishing a healthy culture in your business. However, every culture begins with relationships with your staff.

In small-to-medium-sized businesses, change is inevitable and it can be stressful on employees if they don’t have a good understanding of the business.

As an entrepreneur, taking time to have conversations with your staff to understand what their goals are and how they see themselves within your business, is crucial. This gives them the sense that you are concerned about their well-being and are interested in their future goals. And you are.

Relationships are then formed and a level of trust is developed. This level of trust will allow the owner to focus on building the business and it allows the employee to take one of your many hats and flourish within that role.

The largest, most successful businesses don’t have owners barking orders and leading with intimidation. They have owners who have found key staff that are good at what they do and have developed healthy relationships with those staff.

In turn, those same staff are running the business like their own and are making sound business decisions without the direction of the owner. Just like with the customer, a barrier to exit is developed with the employee.

A key executive is much less likely to even look for another job if they feel appreciated and feel as though they have a relationship with their employer. These staff relationships build trust, foster a positive environment and create a naturally healthy culture.

When you make a conscious effort to be authentic and build real relationships with your customers and staff, your business will grow and your corporate culture will flourish effortlessly.

At the end of the day, employees continue to work for people they enjoy working for, and customers continue to do business with people they trust.

It is rare for employees and customers to be drawn toward and feel tied to companies. Rather, they feel committed to and drawn toward people with whom they have developed a relationship.

Time invested in building those relationships will result in profit and stability.

Marion Long is the CEO of Therapeutic Interventions Inc., which offers school-based day treatment and short-term foster care programs for at-risk children in Virginia. He is also the president-elect of the Southeast Virginia chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a nonprofit that is a peer-to-peer network for entrepreneurs. He can be reached at (757) 442-6147.