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There’s a great scene in an episode of the American TV show The Office in which the main character, Michael Scott, gives a wildly inept talk in front of a class of business school students. After disparaging his performance, an employee tries to soften the critique by assuring him that “it wasn’t personal.”
“Business is always personal,” Michael Scott replies. “It’s the most personal thing in the world.”
As dull as his character was always presented to be, in this case, Michael was spot on. In my opinion, the basis for success in any business is a very personal notion: relationships. If you don’t have them, you will have a hard time winning.
Look In the Mirror
If you’re building a business right now, take a good hard look at the relationships you’ve established with your customers, clients, vendors, suppliers and overall network. Now ask yourself how (or if) each and every one of them has benefited, is currently benefiting or will eventually benefit your company. If you find one or two (or more) relationships that are not evidently fruitful, take a closer look. Have you ever sat down with that client, that company’s CEO or that vendor’s CIO to share a meal or cocktail? If the business results stemming from that connection are lagging, I’d bet you a bottle of bourbon the answer is no.
Or maybe you have sat down with them, but how long has it been? When was the last time you were face to face? Has it become all email check-ins and biannual phone calls? If so, here’s what I recommend: Bond over some bourbon. Build goodwill with a steak. Have some coffee and a conversation. The human element of business relationships, despite the expansion of technology that seemingly renders it unnecessary, is absolutely necessary.
I built a company with $15,000 and sold it for nearly $60 million. I can sit here today and tell you in all honesty that would not have been possible without the sincere, engaged and lasting relationships I forged with C-suite executives at every level of our client/vendor network.
Back in November 2018, I wrote an article about using LinkedIn to grow your own network, and part of that tutorial involved bringing in-person engagement to your digital sphere. Consider this the next step.
Pop Is Tops
I recently read a great article about legendary NBA coach Gregg Popovich’s dedication to hosting team dinners and wine tastings during the season. After most games, he assembles all his players and coaches for meals and fine wines in some of the best restaurants around the country. Past and present members of the San Antonio Spurs testified to the impact of these gatherings, how they help young players bond with old, American players unite with their international teammates and coaches develop unique relationships with players, all of which resulted in an overall team chemistry that has allowed the Spurs to win at an unprecedented rate throughout the duration of Popovich’s tenure.
Coach Pop is really onto something. Whether it’s your inter-company interactions or those between you and your external partners, adding a social element to any kind of business relationship allows you to naturally become comfortable with the people involved. And when it comes to those you’re working with in order to generate profits, the single biggest thing that comes out of a healthy working relationship is one thing: trust. If they trust you and you trust them, there is nothing you can’t accomplish together.
Trust in a business relationship comes from two places: sincere engagement on a personal level in a social environment, and the delivery of promised results in the corporate environment. If you can combine both of those elements repeatedly over the course of your career, your businesses will flourish.
Bond Over Bourbon
It’s so easy. Reach out. Schedule a dinner. Share a meal. Talk about life. Bond over some bourbon. Put yourself on the same level. Be honest. Be sincere. Be vulnerable. Be big. But most importantly, be authentic. Be you. And if the person or people across the table from you are interested in the same level of engagement, you have the makings for a great business relationship and beyond. I genuinely like all the people I’ve become friends with through my work. These are true friendships even beyond the boardroom.
And once you have that, it’s likely to last. I have C-suite relationships with people I met when they were at Company A, and we did great business together. Then, 10 years later, they’re now part of Company B, and we do great business together all over again. And we remain friends. They trusted our personal relationship, and they remembered our business-centric results. That combination can open a lot of new doors to success down the line.
So don’t wait. Make that call. Set a sit-down. Pour some bourbon. Get personal. Michael Scott and Coach Pop know what they’re talking about.
May 29, 2019 at 08:06AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs