Never have I been more thankful to be on friendly terms with my next-door neighbor than when I came home one day to find out we were effectively roommates. As part of a water pipe replacement project throughout our apartment complex, part of the walls in both of our kitchens (which are back-to-back) were torn down to reach the hidden pipes. This situation could have led to frustration, maybe even my wasting money for alternate accommodations, except that my neighbor Victoria and I were already on such good terms with each other that we both just laughed it off.

Ever since I moved to California five years ago, I’ve conscientiously cultivated relationships with my neighbors. Starting in the state with only one friend (a high school classmate who moved out here a year before I did) and without any family west of the state of Texas, I instinctively knew that my neighbors would be one of my safest bets in growing my social circle and in having people to call on if I ever needed a hand. I shudder to think what would have happened without my neighbor Monty’s assistance the night I threw my apartment keys in the dumpster along with my trash, or what my out-of-state guest Mistie would have done when she arrived at 1 a.m. with a dead cell phone and no idea which apartment unit was mine until my downstairs neighbor Rusty pointed her in the right direction.

Like my fruitful befriending of my personal neighbors, it’s savvy to make the effort to cultivate relationships with your salon’s business neighbors. That can mean literally the store on the other side of the wall or it can mean the retail boutique two miles down the road that targets a similar demographic as your business. And although salon owners tend to shun other salon owners who open up on the same street, wouldn’t it be nice if you developed a working relationship so that you can borrow the proverbial cup of sugar from each other on a day when you don’t have the time or the means to get to the beauty supply store?

Salon coach and blogger ( Jill Wilson shares some ingenious ideas for getting to know your neighbors. One idea that especially impressed me is what she calls “Business of the Week.” “Begin by choosing a neighboring business that is close to your salon. We have targeted retail stores, doctor/dental offices, restaurants, and professional services,” Jill says. “We start by calling the business and asking to speak with a manager. We explain, ‘We are a local spa/salon and every week we choose a new company to be our Business of the Week. Your company has been chosen as this week’s business. We’ll be dropping off a poster announcing and explaining this special offer exclusively for your staff.’” She then drops off materials that entitle the business’s employees to a short-term exclusive discount, like 20% off of a service. Sometimes she even takes it a step further and drops off full-on gift bags, which include salon gift certificates, candy, product samples, and salon loyalty cards. The gift bag drops have resulted in not only new loyal clients, but in many of the neighboring business owners returning the favor in kind, distributing gift certificates to the salon’s own employees.

It can be a daunting task to approach your neighbors. Even the friendliest salon owner probably doesn’t enjoy the potential awkwardness of the initial cold call, but, in my opinion, the potential benefits are more than worth it. Sure, there may be a few rude or short-sighted neighbors who won’t spend the few minutes to get to know you, but many businesses, especially other small businesses, welcome the gesture and may even have some great ideas for cross-promotions you can do together. I encourage you to tear down those walls (figuratively only, I hope, in your case) and see how that expands your business horizons.

Do you have a story about how a neighboring business helped you grow your salon? Share it with me at Editor Hannah Lee’s column returns next issue.

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