It literally takes a village to achieve success in the affordable housing development industry
Successful affordable housing development requires the skills, actions, and collaboration of capable people in every sector of the industry. Many of the top developers in the U.S. cite a strong partnership approach as the foundation for their accomplishments.
Building affordable housing is not the only type of construction developers and project managers must master to prosper. They must be adept at building strong relationships and managing them effectively in order to turn community liabilities into community assets and fully develop their businesses.
Solid, enduring relationships with the following groups enable developers and project managers to deliver remarkable projects for the owners, tenants, investors and communities involved.
- government agencies
- elected and appointed officials
- merchant associations
- civic leaders
- urban planners
- community-based groups
- nonprofit organizations
- schools and universities
This seemingly small yet immensely important task is achieved through sound relationship management and networking strategies and best practices.
MAKE FRIENDS AND PARTNER UP
Companies do not make decisions, people do. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Technology may have changed the way we do business, making it more impersonal, but the age-old saying that it’s not what you know but whom you know still carries a lot of weight.
Strong partnerships and extensive professional networks are fundamental to unlocking new business opportunities, developing existing ones, securing more clients, closing more deals and growing a business. In other words, you can do it—with a little help from your friends.
Regardless of your role in the affordable housing development industry, but particularly if you are a project manager, superior relationship management and competent networking skills—that is, people skills—can set your apart from your competitors and serve you well in every situation.
Making meaningful professional connections takes time, effort and know-how. The good news is that with the right relationship management and networking strategies you can improve your people skills and help your business grow and succeed.
The following 11 relationship management strategies will help you create meaningful and productive partnerships.
11 POWERFUL RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
1.Be Authentic and Friendly
You will not attract authentic people if you try to do so by being fake. Healthy relationships—professional and personal—are based on honesty and truth, so be yourself. If you do not know or like yourself, or if you lack confidence, work on yourself first. Being friendly should go without saying, but you would be surprised how many people expect to make friends without being friendly. Remember: you are doing business with people, not with corporate entities.
2. Respect Others
Nobody likes feeling disrespected. As a matter of fact, most people cannot tolerate it. Some get angry. Some get their feelings hurt. Either way, you will lose if you are the one doing the disrespecting. It is quite simple: treat others as you wish to be treated.
3. Find a Common Ground
Connections made with individuals and businesses that share your beliefs, values and goals have a better chance of turning into productive relationships. Take the time to get to know you contacts on a personal level. Observe them carefully, and ask open-ended questions.
4. Improve Your Communication Skills
If your communication skills are ineffective or nonexistent, you will not be able to build, develop and manage your relationships. You would be missing a key ingredient. Imagine lacking the blueprints, construction materials or permits for an affordable housing project. It would fall apart as your relationships will if you fail to truly understand each other. Speak clearly, ask questions and repeat what you are hearing to make sure you are all on the same page.
5. Give First, Then Take
Strong relationships are a two-way street. To work, they must be mutually beneficial. Whatever you want from others, offer it to them first. Do favors whenever it is possible and wise. Sooner than later, others will return the favors.
6. Stay in Touch
Your relationships will not flourish if you do not nurture them. Check in from time to time—a quick phone call, coffee or lunch, an email or text. You do not have to have something specific or significant to discuss. You just have to keep the conversation going.
7. Know What They Want
If you do not know what your prospective contacts want, you will have a tough time attracting and keeping their attention, and an even more difficult time persuading them to do business with you. Knowing your industry’s priorities can prove your value to those with whom you are building relationships. Gather information via questions or surveys whenever possible. Ask about their needs and challenges.
8. Seek Opinions
People love giving advice. It makes them feel valuable and important. Reach out to your contacts for their opinions, and while you are at it, offer your assistance. After all, business relationships do come with benefits. And do not forget to thank them for their advice.
9. Always Follow Up
Say what you mean. Mean what you say. And do what you say you will do. When you tell someone you will call or be at an event, call and show up. Failing to follow up teaches others to not trust you, to not count on you, to be disappointed in you. People love reliability, even those who are not reliable themselves. Keep your word.
10. Spread Enthusiasm and Optimism
Bad moods are contagious, so are good ones. Take advantage of mirror neurons—which cause people to mirror each other’s attitudes and behaviors—to leave people feeling enthusiastic and positive after spending time with you and associating those positive feelings with you. If people feel good around you, they will seek your company and be more receptive to your ideas.
11. Have Fun
All work and no play makes us dull. We may not all agree on what is “fun,” but we agree that we like to have it. So grab a cocktail after work, play tennis or golf, attend a sports event or a cultural affair such as gallery openings or museum exhibitions. Do be careful with alcohol. Having too much “fun” and making a fool of yourself in front of your contacts is not going to help your reputation nor your business.
Some of these strategies are common sense, but most of us need the occasional reminder. Use them as a starting point to expand your professional network and form strong relationships with your peers and potential clients.