“A man is known by the company he keeps.” -Aesop
On August 2, 2019, I became one of eight vice presidents to receive an exit package from my employer. Looking for a new job is not as fun when it is a surprise, but I knew that I did not need to stress because I have taken the time to invest in relationships. Over the past few weeks I have been overwhelmed by the many, many offers to help. The people in my network have provided advice, encouragement, recommendations, and ideas. They have also taken me to lunch and provided introductions. My wife describes my experience as being like the final scene in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. This unexpected season has been a great reminder of the value of relationships.
While I am thankful for what I have received, I have enjoyed giving to others even more. Helping others is what has given my career meaning. Building relationships has given me the opportunity to help others grow their careers and their companies. Helping others has included providing advice, job search assistance, serving people their network, or just encouraging people to become their best.
"Relationships are the most important investments of your lives, invest well."- Warren Buffet
What I believe about building relationships has been influenced by Harvey McKay, author of Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty, David Nour, author of Relationship Economics, and Keith Ferazzi, author of Never Eat Alone.
"People buy from people they know, like, and trust."
I read Harvey McKay's book in 1997 in the beginning of my career. He is a proponent of building your network before you need anything. He asks the question, "How many people could you call at 2 AM?" Harvey says that you can't accomplish anything great alone. His advice on how to build and organize a network was ground breaking. I believe this advice changed my career.
"It is not what you know it is who you know."
David Nour points out that in most countries people build relationships first and do business second. In the United States we tend to build relationships only after a person proves themselves competent. Since it is only possible to maintain relationships with 100 to 150 people, David recommends building a strategic plan to prioritize building business relationships. He suggests focusing on the diversity, quality, and return on investment of relationships. David talks about givers, takers, and investors. He is a proponent of becoming a relationship investor. The quality of relationships can be measured by how fast people return your calls and emails. David also asserts that relationship building cannot be replaced by artificial intelligence, machine learning, or drones.
Keith Ferrazzi provides advice on how he connects and stays in touch with his large network. He believes networking was key to his ability to rise from humble beginnings to gaining a scholarship to Yale, a Harvard MBA, and several key jobs. Keith believes in finding ways to constantly stay in touch with his network to make them feel important and help them succeed. He provides practical advice on how to expand and deepen your network.
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others." -African Proverb
In his book the Proximity Principle, Ken Coleman says, "You need to be intentional about who you need to get around in order to learn and grow." He continues, "Proximity positions me where I need to be and propels me where I want to be." Ken provides advice on how to be audacious but not obnoxious. He recommends telling people you admire them in a specific way and that you want to grow in that area. He suggests asking them to meet face to face in order to ask a few questions. Ken believes that selling without a relationship is obnoxious but seeking to learn from someone is a compliment.
Below are ten best practices I use to build and grow business relationships.
Identify the types of people you would enjoy meeting
Build a networking plan
Regularly attend events and meet new people
Ask questions about the interests of others
Have an elevator pitch that is memorable and creates curiosity
Carry business cards
Keep notes on the people in your networks
Serve others first
Ask for small favors such as introductions or to connect on social media
Find ways to keep in touch and continually add value
What are your best practices to build relationships?
*Photo credit goes to best selling author and executive coach Mark J. Silverman