Engagement season is upon us. You probably didnít realize there was a season called ìengagement season,î but for those in the wedding industry, this is the most wonderful time of the year! The season begins sometime around Thanksgiving and ends around Valentine ís Day. According to WeddingWire, 33 percent of engagements happen during this period.

Given this season of love and commitments, it’s logical to reflect on other engagements. Almost 5 years ago, I moved my office from my home and into the shared space with a florist and a gourmet chef. Although we didn’t move into the space until April, the planning meetings began in February. It was a great time of year to ‘become engaged’ with these two business partners, and the relationship has been fabulous. I’m publicly thanking them here. Business is looking good. 

More recently, just one year ago, my company partnered with the talented caterer, Ray Harris. After a year of figuring things out together (just like a first year of a marriage), we’ve hit our stride and are preparing for a wonderful 2015.

What do my musings and reflections mean for you? Well, I believe that a season of engagement is truly meant to be a time to appreciate the relationships you’ve formed, but not those romantic relationships. (Sure, I’m all for telling your spouse how much he/she means to you, but that’s not what this column is about.) From a business perspective, strategic partnerships are what drive small businesses (and probably large ones too, but I’m a small fry, so that’s really all I can speak to). When solving dilemmas for clients or for my own business, having a network of relationships is much more efficient (and satisfying) than simply using Google.

Recently, in looking to hire a part-time graphic designer, I reached out to some photographers and a few other friends who I thought might ‘know someone’. I could’ve used the classified ads or the Chamber of Commerce website. But I wanted to hire someone that came with a recommendation, someone who already knew at least one or two people in my circle, who would slip right into the culture of my office without missing a beat. The best way to find that person was by word of mouth. Asking around. And it worked. After two days of asking around, two very qualified people came to me, literally, within 30 minutes of each other.

In a small town, the partnerships extend past immediate relationships of friends and family to friends of friends of family. (Of course, this can also be a challenge in a small town, but mostly it’s a blessing). In seeking some extra help for a large upcoming event, a co-worker suggested a former co-worker of his, who happens to be the sister of another colleague we work with regularly. Those kinds of ‘endorsements’ are meaningful because when you employ someone who is interconnected to your team in several ways, the motivation to do a great job is amplified.

Relationships are important to me. That’s why I’m in this business. 

And that’s why I keep in touch with my former brides. I enjoy the relationship we build during their wedding planning days, and I enjoy keeping up with where they go in their new married lives. I like staying in touch because I genuinely care about what happens to these couples. Some have moved to foreign countries, others have started businesses or completely changed careers. Some have, sadly, ended their marriages (after almost 8 years in business and over 200 weddings, I guess a divorce or two is inevitable). And then there are the babies – lots and lots of babies have come from marriages that began at a Season wedding.

But beyond the connectivity I see with my past brides about their personal lives, I also enjoy the professional relationships we now enjoy. I have employed former clients for legal advice, architectural drawings, financial direction, and guidance on design and much more. [I’m dying to start a network of “something borrowed” where past brides can offer their veils, decor, etc for future brides to use. It’s coming. Just wait.] Keeping business ‘in the family’ is a key part of building strategic relationships. I guess that sounds a tad Mafioso. Put another way, “Dance with the one who brung ya.”

This season of love and Valentine’s is a great reminder to recognize and appreciate the connections in your life. The strategic partnerships you created may be business, personal, spiritual, or tied to your children’s lives. Take a moment to consider how you’ve been connected.  How did you come to know your best friend, your tax accountant, your plumber?

The world of LinkedIn and Facebook have their merits, but there’s nothing quite like a friend telling me about her friend’s first cousin who just moved back to town but used to live next door to their grandmother who can totally take care of that random task that I need done. That’s the small town connectivity I can’t live without!