The importance of human relationships in the modern world

I spend a large chunk of my daily life attached to technology. I wake up courtesy of the alarm on my phone and as I turn it off I am greeted by the notifications that have reached me overnight. Fantastic, one of my friends on Instagram has posted for the first time in a while. Swipe that notification away. Oh, good, two of my favourite shoe stores have given me a special 15% discount on their fall selection. Delete, delete. I put my phone down and have a fleeting recollection of my clash with a ferocious lion in my dream last night. I try to delve into my memory to find the remnants of my battle, but all I find are two cheap pairs of shoes. Before the day has even begun technology has penetrated its way into my conscious thought. I would imagine that many of you find a similar beginning to the day, perhaps with less lions, but likely with the same bombardment of trivial information.

That’s the cost of living in the modern world. Even if you try to cut down on screen time, most of you will find that your job requires you to spend many hours looking at a screen. Your appointments, communications, and the general organisation of your daily life are likely delegated to you by a small rectangular beacon of information. Technology makes life convenient and efficient. China, through Alibaba innovations, is the poster boy for the integration of technology into everyday life. Alibaba promotions show the ‘ideal’ daily life in which an individual uses their phone for every aspect of their day – getting from place to place with Didi Chuxing, reading news from Youku Tudou, shopping on one of their numerous online marketplaces, and so on. The growth of virtual reality makes this even more invasive. Online stores are being designed to replicate the interior of real stores, giving the feeling of walking around browsing products. Whether this level of assimilation reaches the Western world is yet to be seen, but unless there is significant pushback it appears that the impact of technology on everyday life will continue to grow.

This growing reliance on technology makes real human relationships even more important. Perhaps much of your interaction with a client or work associate happens through text or calls, with a rare face to face meeting along the way. A positive interaction with a client can lead to increased trust and bonding, thus taking the relationship to a new level. A client will often prefer working with an individual with whom they have good rapport, even if that person is less technically adept than the competition. Learning skills to make the most of face to face interactions is therefore paramount in the work climate of today.

Firstly, you should go into business meetings feeling relaxed and confident. In the lead up to a meeting try to remove any expectations that you may have set upon yourself. View every client interaction as an opportunity for success, but placing too much weight on that opportunity can cause anxiety. Nervousness can cause you to speak too quickly, fidget, lose concentration, sweat profusely, and leave an overall impression with the client that you are disorganised or even untrustworthy. You will personally have to test what works to quell your nerves. You could develop a pre-meeting routine that gets you in a confident mindset, or have a few pre-planned questions to fall back on in case you get caught up on your words.

Once in the meeting, begin with a firm handshake, an abundance of eye contact, and an upright body position. Whilst conversing consciously make an effort to slow down your speech to articulate yourself clearly. Mimic the client’s body language and mannerisms to create a subconscious bond. While this may feel wooden at first, these techniques should all become natural with some practice. However, if it continues to feel unnatural, drop it. The most important aspect of your interaction is that you truly listen. You don’t want to miss a subtle change in tone or choice of wording because you were too busy trying to cross your legs at the same time as the client.

Once you have overcome any issues of nervousness and mastered a few key techniques to boost your confidence, interactions should feel more genuine. That is the key to striking a positive business relationship. Yes, a firm handshake and upright body position may subtly influence a client’s opinion of you, but the true success of your meeting will come from human connection. Don’t try to refocus the meeting on business issues if the topic wanders, feel free to talk about fishing or dogs for twenty minutes if that’s where the conversation leads. The true purpose of the meeting should be to feel like you’ve developed a stronger relationship with the individual across the table.

Now that technology has permeated our everyday life, these client interactions have become fewer and farther between. As a result, to be successful in maintaining business relationships, you must nail down the impression you make in these meetings. Ultimately, the impression you give will not come from your body language, level of eye contact, or firmness of handshake, but from the bond you make with another human being.

Dean Franklet is a third year economics and finance student at the University of Canterbury where he is President of the largest commerce society on campus. Spending his life in Texas and then New Zealand with a few other stops along, he gives a unique global viewpoint to portray in his writing.

Image: Pexels

Navigating Business Partnerships

Navigating Business Partnerships

(Source: 드림포유)

This is a guest post from Archie Ward.

Business partnerships can be an integral part of start-up success and growth of a new venture. If properly implemented and executed, partnerships can be an effective way to grow your enterprise without having to implement time consuming and difficult changes or having to make costly investments.

Each partner brings expertise and assets which can help to increase your market share and competitive advantage. However, just like marriage, business partnerships can be difficult and getting out of one can be messy.

The winning strategy is to ensure that you conduct due diligence prior to getting into a partnership. If you are starting a partnership and wondering how to navigate through these murky waters, consider the five (5) pointers below.

1. Don’t rush into it

The adage “fools rush in” was never truer than when it comes to business partnerships.

Cash-strapped entrepreneurs will often stop exploring their options as soon as they find a person who can write them a big check, but it is important that you don’t overlook potential opportunities.

Remain uncommitted and stay flexible until you have explored your options. Cultivate your alternatives actively and do not be too quick to ignore potential business partners. Take time to compare the relative benefits and disadvantages of every alternative. And at the end of the day, ask yourself, “is this the best option for my business”?

Take time to calculate the opportunity costs of entering into a business partnership, and remember that you will also assume any liabilities of the partnership.

2. Don’t overlook the importance of shared values and integrity

Your values and those of your business partners need to be aligned.

A potential business partner may be extremely smart or have a proven track record, but they may also have engaged in shady business deals to get where they are.

If you enter into a partnership with someone who has no regard for ethics and integrity then you can expect strife. Many big businesses (think Arthur Andersen) have come undone as a result of engaging in unethical practices.

3. Have an exit strategy

Having an exit strategy is not jinxing your business, it’s just good common sense.

The reality is that conflict is inevitable, and you can never predict how severe a conflict might get. By putting measures in place ahead of time you can help to ensure that you are not the loser if things head south.

While the partnership may not disintegrate, better opportunities may emerge, and so you need to have an exit strategy that will allow you to change with the times.

How will the partnership assets be shared in the event that the partnership is dissolved? What happens if a business partner dies?

When considering your exit strategies you need to consider all of the possible eventualities.

4. Map Out Mutual Expectations

What expectations do you have for the business partnership? Are these the same as the expectations of your prospective business partners?

It is best to have your expectations written down before you meet with potential partners. This will serve as a road map for the partnership, and will provide several advantages:

  • It will act as a partnership draft which will also be presented to the lawyers once the partnership kicks off.
  • Your expectations will give you a guideline within which you can experiment with the different potential partners before you make up your mind.
  • It will give you a clear vision of what you want from the partnership, which will help you to avoid getting sidelined even if you meet a potential partner with huge financial muscle.
  • A list of expectations should distinguish legal matters from partnership issues, and you can discuss the legal ones with a business lawyer.

5. Seek legal advice early

When starting a partnership, it is a good idea to seek legal advice right from the outset, and certainly prior to any negotiations between you and potential investors.

You need to let your lawyer know your expectations for the venture so that they can assess how realistic they are. They will also assist you in strategising the negotiations, and ensuring that you ask all the right questions. Your partner will also have a lawyer and it is best to be prepared because each of the attorneys will pursue the best interests of their client.

6. Don’t Overlook The Details

As an entrepreneur, you are likely to have an eye for the bigger picture; however, overlooking the details can have dire consequences.

There are several bases that you need to cover before you begin:

  • Establish your objectives and match them against those of your partners.
  • Determine the contribution to be made by each partner.
  • Assign the roles and duties of each partner; for instance, who will hire and train the employees and who will manage the enterprise?
  • Agree on a dispute resolution mechanism for the partnership such as arbitration or mediation.

By paying attention to the above key pointers, you can give your partnership the best chance of success.

Do you have an opinion? Are there other factors that you think are important when entering into a partnership? Respond in the forums, by email, on Facebook or via Twitter.

Archie Ward is a business consultant and social media strategist. Archie splits his time each year between Asia and Australia. While he is hard at work helping other people make their businesses successful, he hopes to launch his own by year end.

Negotiating an offer of employment 2008

I HAVE spent a lot of time writing about preparing for consulting interviews. The aim of performing well in the interview is to obtain an offer of employment. Imagine you have obtained an offer of employment from the consulting firm of your choice and you now want to negotiate the terms of the offer. Can you negotiate the terms of your offer of employment and, if so, where do you start?

1. Use your bargaining power

Your ability to negotiate the terms of your offer depends on how much bargaining power you have. As a graduate looking for a consulting job your bargaining power will depend, to a large extent, on the current balance of power in the job market. In the late 1990s, the job market was an employee’s market and companies would add extra benefits like an increased signing bonus or an extra week of annual leave in order to sign employees. Today, the job market is more of an employer’s market with a shrinking number of jobs and, one would imagine, less attractive compensation being offered.

Whatever the state of the economy, it is worth considering negotiating the terms of your offer. After you accept your offer of employment you will have virtually no bargaining power, so the time for negotiation is beforehand. If you are friendly and businesslike then negotiating needn’t create a negative impression, on the contrary, it demonstrates that you have a keen business sense and a healthy level of self confidence.

2. Obtain written confirmation

It almost goes without saying, but you need to obtain written confirmation of all of the terms you manage to negotiate.

3. Terms to negotiate

There are a number of offer terms that you might want to negotiate, including:

  1. office location;
  2. start date;
  3. compensation;
  4. starting position;
  5. annual leave; and
  6. offer response deadline.

3.1. Office location

To negotiate a change of office location, a first step might be to explain the reason for your request to HR. If they agree to look into the matter, make sure you agree on a date to follow up on the matter.

If your request is turned down, look for a person in your target office to vouch for the transfer, the more senior they are the better. When you find someone in the target office, explain your situation, describe why you want to work in that office, and ask if there’s anything he or she can do to help you. Offer to fly out to the office and meet with the consultants there in person.

3.2. Start date

Given the weak economy, you are likely to be able to negotiate a later start date. The key selling point is that the firm can start paying your salary later than planned, thus saving them money.

3.3. Salary and bonus

Given the weak economy, it will be difficult to negotiate an improved remuneration package.

The best form of leverage is to have another offer that pays more money. You can say, “I really like your firm; however I have another offer that pays $15,000 more. This is a difficult decision. I’m ready to sign with you if you can make the numbers work. Can you increase the compensation that you are offering?”

It goes without saying that it’s a bad idea to invent a fake job offer in order to provide negotiating leverage.

If you are an MBA or lateral hire and your previous salary was higher this gives you additional leverage. You may be able to convince the employer that you are being undervalued.

3.4. Starting position

If the job offer is for a position at a lower level than you believe is justified given your qualifications and experience you can ask for a shorter review period, e.g. six months instead of a year. This gives you a chance to prove your worth.

3.5. Annual leave

If you don’t like the amount of annual leave days provided, you should try asking for more. If that fails, ask about the firms unpaid leave policy. If the firm doesn’t have one, obtain written confirmation that you will be able to take extra days of unpaid leave.

3.6. Offer response deadline

If you need an extension to the offer deadline, ask for it. It’s a very common thing to get more time to make a decision, so don’t hesitate to ask for it.