The Global Language Monitor as of January 1, 2014 estimates the number of words in the English language at 1,025,109.

Is it possible to select 2 words (out of the million or so) that can be viewed universally by all business leaders as the most crucial words?  If someone asks you to pick the 2 most essential words, how would you even begin to identify them?

Let’s start brainstorming a few potential important words in business: Growth, Profits, People, Customers, Innovation, Differentiation, Strategy, Core Purpose, Competitive Advantage, Quality, Values, Market Share, Solutions, Excellence, Culture, Execution, Cash, Collaboration, Alignment, Vision, Leadership, Momentum, Service, Experience, Discipline, Resilience, Customer Delight, Gross Margin, Valuation,…

We can go on for a while adding a lot more important words and I am sure each of you can come up with many more. Our challenge though is to narrow it down and pick just two that are most crucial, important, fundamental, vital, critical and essential words in business.

Most Important Word #1 of 2: Results

Business success is about getting results. It is unfortunate that most businesses fall well below accomplishing their full potential due to a lack of focus or inability to get results. Business success involves creating a compelling strategy, focusing on a handful of priorities, identifying key metrics to measure and report on, and establishing an effective communication rhythm. It is about executing on the priorities and achieving them on a consistent basis. Priorities should cover more than just financials to also include priorities around organizational development, customers and operational excellence. Business success must measured by getting Results in each and every aspects of running the business and this is why Results is one of the two most important words in business.

If “results” is one of two most important words in business, what is the second one?

While leaders will readily (or after thinking for a moment or two) agree that Results is a most important word, it becomes a bit more difficult to agree on the second word.

Most Important Word #2 of 2: Relationships

Relationships? What does this got to do with business many may think? As a CEO, do you think it is important to have a good relationship with your board? How about with your shareholders? Is it important to have a good relationship with your Executive team?

Now, we all know of one or more of the arrogant know-it-all type CEO. The one exclusively focused on the numbers that may even view others as objects in their big design. Some can even be successful, however, none sustainably over a long period of time.

To build a foundation of sustainable long term growth requires paying a significant attention to establishing, building and nurturing mutually rewarding relationships. This must cover the whole range of relationships with employees, customers, partners, suppliers, shareholders/investors, advisors/board members and influencers.

Having outstanding relationships with and amongst employees will boost satisfaction, loyalty, collaboration, retention, productivity and the bottom line results. Customers that deeply connect with brands feel they have a relationship and becomes loyal, repeat purchasers and promoters. They are, for example, willing to wait in long line to be the first to get their hand on a new product driving top line growth. In similar ways, establishing rewarding relationships with partners, shareholders/investor, advisors/board members and influencers is critically important. The table below illustrates some of the key benefits of having mutually rewarding Relationships with each stakeholder.

Having a mutually rewarding relationships with… Will cause… Yielding the following results
Employees Loyalty, retention, advocacy, collaboration, productivity Better execution
Customers Loyalty, advocacy through word of mouth, repeat purchases, valuable feedback Improved top line growth
Suppliers and Partners Responsiveness, faster delivery, better prices, more mind share, collaboration, quality Faster, better, cheaper improving overall execution
Shareholders/Investors Willingness to invest more, loyalty through rough patches Improved financial capacity for expansion and fueling growth
Advisors and Board Members More emotionally vested in the success of the business, more valuable input and ideas, valuable introductions to new relationships Improved execution, reduces or eliminates blind spots
Influencers Advocacy Enhanced brand and broader visibility, more business

Additionally, leaders must make nurturing relationships with family and friends a top priority as well. Yes, this takes extra effort because many top leaders find themselves fully consumed with almost an exclusive focus on the numbers at the expense of all else. Treat relationships as a nice to have or second priority at your own peril. Treating relationships as one of the two most important words for success is the only way to sustain business success.

The reality is simply this. Sustained results require mutually rewarding relationships. Results and Relationships are the Yin and Yang of business success. Successful leaders are able to balance results and relationships or risk one suffers in the short term while guaranteeing that both results and relationships will deteriorate over the long run.

Balancing results and relationships is necessary for sustained business success and will creates a virtuous cycle of progress where improved results fuel better relationships and great relationships accelerate improved results.