The power of relationships

February 17, 2016 9:48 am

A successful machine shop benefits from strong relationships.

By Keith Jennings, President, Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas

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With 2015 being a year of changes and volatility in our market, the importance of strong, supportive business relationships was made even clearer. Longtime business associates became friends, and new business relationships formed with former employees who stayed in touch, neighbors, contacts made through my local chamber of commerce and even my brother’s gym-workout partners. These are people who provided helpful insights and became ambassadors of our company, because they got to know us and saw potential.

For example, a former employee who became a police officer sent business our way through his numerous contacts in industry. Because we allowed the police to conduct canine training in our shop, they look out for us and refer business.

Even though my dad is retired and no longer dealing with the daily operations, much of the network cultivated by him and my mom remains in place. These contacts and friends continue to help us and send business our way, provide positive referrals when requested, offer free advice and champion our company among the people they know. Suffice it to say, it’s good to know you have them backing you up.

Personal friends also play a role in aiding the business. One is a longtime metals and scrap dealer. He ensures we get top dollar for scrap. Another friend owns a restaurant and knows many connected business people who frequent his establishment. Some have referred business to us or offered valuable insight. Others have connected us with bankers, real estate professionals or attorneys. Having these connections can make running a business a better experience.

In addition, a sizable number of buyers and engineers who worked for customers were laid off, forced into early retirement or otherwise removed. Maintaining those contacts has generated new business when they became employed at another company. We spent significant time and effort cultivating those relationships and they shouldn’t be lost due to a change in employment.

We also know machine tool experts who help us make wise equipment choices or facilitate a deal to sell something we no longer want or need, going above and beyond on our behalf.

A retired welding consultant has generously offered training, guidance and certified inspections of critical parts at a reasonable price—good to have at a time when cash flow and spending was tight.

Of course, many other examples exist and I’m sure you have your own. The point is, having positive relationships with these people has benefitted us when we needed it. Our region contains a vast amount of industry and a large entrepreneurial population. Therefore, if we fail to manage the shop effectively, there’s someone ready to take our spot.

In return for all these friendships and great support, we also spread a good word about them. I may occasionally buy them lunch, give them a company calendar, tickets to a football game or just a pat on the back. Supporting worthy associates and colleagues is one of the coolest things about owning or managing a business. Don’t overlook the power and benefits of relationships. Expand them and leverage them to your benefit.

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