Business connections are a big part of success for any business. Whether it’s your relationships with vendors, colleagues, customers or even competitors — developing and maintaining relationships can easily make or break your business. So take some time and check out our simple strategies to make business relationship management a priority.

Always Interact … ALWAYS

If you want to build or maintain a business relationship, you have to be willing to engage thoughtfully. That means responding to customers who offer praise as quickly as you do to those who come to you with a problem. This is easy to do via Facebook and other social media platforms. When a customer posts something positive or tags you in something, make sure you interact in some way, even if it’s just hitting like or leaving a short comment.

Listen to Criticism Even When It’s Not Criticism

Sometimes the best suggestions don’t come as clear forms of advice or criticism. Check out customer returns to learn why some products are suddenly getting returned. Follow online social media buzz when it comes to understocks and backorders on popular lines for other companies and use that information to expand your own offerings. Make sure your sales and inventory tools are integrated so that you can see the effects of marketing and promotional campaigns as a way to determine what customers respond to best.

Be Generous — Inside and Out

This is perhaps the simplest — and the most difficult — concept for small business owners. It’s not that business owners aren’t naturally generous, it’s that being generous with time and energy is much more difficult as a company grows. As a result, generosity of spirit often dwindles without anyone noticing until it gets to an extreme.

Being generous both internally and externally will result in stronger relationships with everyone from new staff members to customers who have been with you since day one. For customers, stick with the Customers First approach and instill a passion for service in your staff by being generous with them directly. In some companies that may mean financial compensation in line with business growth, increased flexible time and vacation options or increasing how often you promote from within when managerial, creative and other positions are open.