They say success is “all about who you know.” And if you have ever been a startup founder, you’re probably vigorously nodding your head right now!  When you have built meaningful relationships with people in business, you soon find that more doors will open, it’ll be easier to gain funding, and you’ll actually have options when it comes to strategic partnerships.

Sounds easy. Make friends, ask them for things, and get stuff done. But too many times this scenario goes terribly, terribly wrong.

Unfortunately, too many people in business do not know how to appropriately ask for favors and sadly, blundering a perfectly good ask could lead to the swift end of an otherwise rosy relationship.

I’ve created my share of favor-asking disasters in the past (particularly working as a publicist, where all you’re doing is asking for favors!) and have seen countless other entrepreneurs royally screw things up too. Being older and wiser now, I can tell you exactly where it goes usually wrong: Asking for the favor without reciprocating with a favor of your own.

Basic, but our judgement can sometimes get cloudy. Folks might tell you that they don’t operate with a “tit for tat” mentality, but I’m telling you now, 90 percent of the time, that’s not true.

When you’re the one being constantly asked for favors, you may do them gladly the first time or two. But when the other person is constantly taking from you, resentment begins to set in and you look for ways to avoid that person (or shut them down).

The other scenario might be that you don’t know the favor asker all that well before they start hitting you for stuff. This leads you think they’re only creating a relationship with you because they want something from you.

In either scenario, it doesn’t feel good.

I’ve learned that in order to have a mutually beneficial business relationship that stands the test of time – you need to have a clear idea of the other person’s goals and business objectives. Before you go asking favors, think about what you could give them that would truly be of value. And if you think you’re reaching and they might not really need the thing you’re proposing to give them, you’re probably right. So find something better! Best case scenario, you think about how you can use your expertise to assist them.

At the end of the day, business is all about human relationships – and like all relationships, you need to nurture and contribute to your business contacts. I’ve found that when you can do that, you don’t really need to ask for favors, because people will begin offering them to you.

Formerly a Vice President of Content Marketing, Molly is the Co-Founder of The Unicorn in the Room, as well as a Marketing & Business Columnist for INC and The Huffington Post.


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