Let me ask you a question: do you get your hair cut or do you get your hair styled? If you are a man, you most likely said cut. A woman, on the other hand, gets her hair styled. For most men, the local barber shop works just fine. Women, on the other hand, typically go to a salon and work with a stylist. The average cost for a barber shop cut is $12-$15. The average cost for a trip to the salon and working with a stylist is $100-$125. Thus, most men never set foot in a salon.

When it came to getting my own hair cut, I used to be like most men. Then I met Angie, my wife’s stylist. Now I go to the salon to get my hair cut by her unabashedly. No, I am not some sexist pig looking for a reason to flirt with other women. I go to Angie for one simple reason – we have a relationship.

Angie found common ground with me as she got to know my wife. This persuaded me to reserve my spot in the stylist chair. Once I sat down, she began inquiring about my life as an individual, not simply as the husband of a client. Subsequent appointments led to conversations regarding my beliefs, struggles, and triumphs. Angie now makes a habit of keeping current with what’s happening in my life between appointments. She doesn’t make it a one-way exchange either. She shares her life too.

“I look at my list of clients as more of a friendship list than a client list,” she states. Angie believes caring for her clients reflects on their physical appearance. If they are feeling good on the inside, they will feel better on the outside. In fact, she’s had clients of other stylists switch to her because of her ability to build relationships. She’s not simply about the hair. She’s about people.

You should be too. In fact, you should be about all of the people with whom you interact within your business – vendors, investors, customers, and especially employees (if applicable). Give your relationships as much attention as you do your product or service. Many things will change with your business. However, one thing will never change: you will always be dealing with people. Therefore, make them a priority and treat them well.

In this age of social media, the most effective marketing tool of all time – word of mouth – has finally been given its due credit. If you put people first, someone will notice and tell someone else. Then, exponential math kicks in, and hopefully within a short period of time, you will have lots of people wanting to buy from you, invest in you, and work for you.

Angie does not have a website or social media profile for her business. She styles hair full time and has built her clientele strictly through word of mouth. “It’s had a huge impact on getting new clients,” she says. My sister-in-law has been a long-time client and Angie estimates she’s gained roughly 30 new clients through her, two of which were my wife and me. Angie is a rock star and here are three things that she does that you should do:

1. Stop and listen. When asking a question, stop what you are doing and listen to the other person’s answer. Give them your full attention. Look them in the eye.

2. Get personal. You don’t have to turn the conversation into a counseling session, but getting personal with people shows you care about them. It shows that you recognize that they are in fact a person, not just a label like “customer” or “employee.” Warning: make sure you get their permission first (directly or indirectly) before broaching personal matters, especially if it’s a sad or disheartening matter. You could let them bring the matter up first before inquiring further about it.

3. Be yourself. This is not an excuse for being unprofessional. However, people want honesty in their relationships, even more than they want an honest product or service. If you are being fake or insincere, expect the other person to distance themselves from you and your business. Ken and Barbie are perfect, but they’re made of plastic. Real people are imperfect and don’t hide themselves.

Try implementing one these actions, if not all of them, and see what a difference it makes for your business. I’m not advocating that all men should go to the salon and see a stylist. It is, after all, just a haircut. However, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur or small business owner, regardless of what your stylist chair looks like, you have to make people matter. Angie is good at styling hair. The personal connection she forms with her clients though makes her a great stylist. Develop a personal connection with your people and you will have a great business too.

Can you think of a particularly strong relationship you have with a service provider, vendor, or client? Do you have story about how a great relationship with a client has grown your business? We would love to hear it in the comments below.