Building Business Relationships – Part Two: Following Up and Following Through


Follow UP is an excellent skill to demonstrate in business, but it takes real leadership to follow THROUGH.

In a previous post we talked about making a positive first impression. The most important thing a person can do after meeting someone is to send a thank you note, acknowledging the meeting. That thank you note, a follow up, is really an extension of that first meeting.

Follow up is a response to an event, like that first meeting. Follow through, on the other hand, has no ending. We may have to follow through with someone many times about the same situation, and this goes far above and beyond checking a task off a to do list.

Take the example of a bookkeeper. A client asks her to make a payment to a vendor. She follows up by completing the task. To follow through, however, she contacts the vendor to ensure they received the payment and that everything was handled correctly.

Follow through is more than taking actions. Part of being a leader is to be proactive and plan the series of follow up actions that will enable us to follow through. If we are going to follow up with someone, when will we do that? What are the possible reasons for following up, and how will we execute the follow through?

Follow through is really about accountability. What have we said we were going to do, and did we do those things? If we have not done those things, have we taken responsibility for that and renegotiated the next steps?

In business someone told me decades ago, “Never mess with an employee’s pay or vacation. Get those things right.” If we have a commitment to people to follow up AND follow through on correcting paycheck or vacation errors, our employees will stay loyal forever because they know their leadership will be accountable in ways that matter.

On the Road: Tips from a Veteran Traveler


My personal leadership style is to meet, in person, as much as possible. Face-to-face communications with customers and employees enables a leader to more accurately convey or receive priorities, interpret body language, and seek or give immediate feedback. But, the cost of face time is travel time. Sometimes it feels like I live in airports and hotels more than I do in my own home. As a result, I have found that it is best for me to create a homelike environment, no matter where I go.

The trick is to make the travel part as simple and as less time consuming as possible. Here are a few tips for making travel less onerous:

Make a packing list.
I keep mine on the computer for easy updates and use it religiously for packing and re-packing. I also keep a printed copy of the list in my suitcase, even in between trips. It makes it so much faster to check and see if I have remembered everything, both when leaving and coming home.

Organize your travel outfit the night before you travel.
As I pack, I always lay out my travel clothes first and put them in a particular place in the closet so that all I have to do in the morning is get up, get dressed, and go. When flying, I tend to travel in jeans and long-sleeved shirts. No matter the season, it is cold on airplanes, so I always wear long sleeves and carry a sweater. That way I have an extra layer at my seat without having to be crowded by a coat (flight attendants are always happy to hang up the coat).

Wear sturdy shoes.
In flight, I always wear (believe it or not) hiking boots! They keep my feet warm in the air, but more importantly, they protect my feet from luggage wheels and other hazards, and prevent me from turning my ankle when I may be running over uneven surfaces to catch a plane. Plus if there is bad weather, I will not ruin my good shoes. For business shoes, fewer are better, and I plan my outfits, so they work with one or two pairs at the most.

Have a designated jewelry storage box to ensure you never leave anything behind.
I wait until I choose my clothing to decide which jewelry to bring. I always carry a small box to set on the bureau in the hotel so when I remove jewelry, I have a place for it where it won’t get lost. When it is time to pack, I don’t have to search for my jewelry; I can just pick up the box and go.

Always travel with:

  • Comfort items for the flight:

1. The Releaf Neck Rest is a special collar that makes it possible to fall asleep comfortably while sitting up. I often put it on as soon as I sit down in an airplane because it is common for me to nod off before the plane has left the ground. Many times I have awakened to find myself in the air and I never realized the plane had left the ground—I sleep soundly when my head stays still!

2. I also carry my favorite Sony earphones, so I can listen to music or watch a movie on the flight without disturbing anyone else.

3. My favorite flight appliance is a back up phone/iPad charger for those long flights.

4. Don’t forget to carry snacks. Now a-days, we can order almost everything we need in life from Amazon! My favorite flight snacks are “Go Raw” cookies. They are gluten free, nutritious and delicious and they keep me from being tempted by airline snack food.

  • Exercise clothes and shoes

and perhaps a bathing suit, in case there are workout facilities or a pool.

  • Large plastic bag for separating laundry.

I set up the bag on a hanger or the floor of the closet, so I know exactly where to put my clothing at night. Repacking it is easy and quick, and the laundry is kept separate from my clean clothes.

  • A designated set of travel cosmetics and toiletries.

I like the L.L. Bean cosmetics bags. I keep one stocked with a second set of everything I use at home, so I don’t have to move things in and out of the travel case. I use uniform-sized plastic travel bottles for shampoo, creams, etc. and label each one with a label maker. It makes packing the cosmetic kit easier because items are the same size and shape. (Remember to take a quick inventory in between trips of what needs to be refilled!) A thick waterproof kit works well if hairspray or other items leak during travel. If the cosmetic case is zipped shut, then I might have a mess at the other end but at least it won’t get out into the suitcase. I also use small sandwich bags or other plastic bags to wrap individual items and contain leaks.

  • Multi-plug adapter and small extension cord.

I always travel with a power strip with multiple outlets to accommodate things like computers, phone chargers, hair dryers and CPAP machines. I also carry an extension cord because hotel outlets may be far away from where they are needed.

  • Return travel outfit in a plastic bag for the last day of meetings.

I often have all-day meetings on the last day of my trip, so I pack another large plastic bag just for my travel clothes. I carry it separately, and then when I am done with meetings, I change into my travel clothes and lay my business clothing inside the packed suitcase.

These are just a few of the tricks I use every month to make it easy to visit with my customers and employees all over the United States. I hope you find these tips will help keep you comfortable and organized. I would love to hear about some of your travel tips.

Bon voyage!

Building Business Relationships – Part One: The First Impression


Building any kind of relationship always starts at the beginning: the first impression. Before we even get in front of a person to make that first impression, however, it is very important to be comfortable in our own skin and with who we are.

The most successful relationships are built on authenticity. If we can’t boldly be our authentic selves, then we may seem to have something to hide. The quality of openness engenders a positive relationship.

The flipside of being comfortable in our own skin is to be truly and sincerely interested in learning as much as we can about the other person. What can we do to assist other people to express their authentic selves?

When we shake hands with someone and say, “I’m glad to meet you,” if we also look them in the eye and imagine that we are looking deeply into who they are as a person, then we will receive an impression of their true nature.

It is very important that this process be sincere. If we only affect an interest in another person, they will know that it is false interest.

With practice, we can genuinely develop more interest in hearing what other people have to say than in what we, ourselves, have to say. Listening to others frees us from being too focused on our own personal situations and troubles, from the inner dialogue that sometimes says, “Ain’t it awful!” Deficit-based thinking will never leave the best impression, so we strive to stay in a positive state of mind (asset-based thinking) whenever we are interacting with other people.

If we are open and receptive to listening and learning something about each new person we meet, they will respond in kind. The first impression we create will be that of someone who is authentic, a good listener, positive and interested in them. From there we can continue to build a mutually beneficial relationship that improves over time.

I once heard a speech by a very wise colonel. He said that in defining for himself how to make a good impression, he decided to treat everyone he encountered not as if they were the general, but as if they were the general’s wife.