Building Relationships that Build Business

Relationships are the foundation of business. Whether it is relationships inside your company or outside of your company, relationships allow your business to either thrive or fail. Because of this, focusing on relationships is one of the most effective ways to improve your company and simultaneously build personal success.

Identify key relationships
Think about the relationships that you need in order to succeed. These relationships may include others in your company, your industry, or your circle of influence. Now take a moment to write down the top 10 people you need to succeed and rate the strength of those relationships. How you are doing? Are these relationships weak or are they strong? Most people will find a mixed bag: some relationships that are incredibly strong, and others at the breaking point. In order to succeed you need these relationships, so what can you do to ensure that these relationships are strong?

Do something about it
The best way to build a relationship is simply to help other people; not to return a favor, but simply because you want to build the relationship. Business relationships are often weakened by years of taking with very little giving in return. To strengthen a relationship all you need to do is help the other person without seeking personal gain. Some examples of this include: providing a contract lead to a client, turning your timesheets in on-time (for an overextended accountant), and providing timely information to others in the industry. The goal is to proactively work to make their life easier.

Why it Works
If someone helps you once you would appreciate it; if they helped you 10 times, you would develop a healthy desire to return the favor; if they helped you 30 times you would do every you could to help them in return. This is the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship, a relationship where two people are consistently looking for ways to help one another.

Building a relationship that builds business starts when you selflessly help others.  Who on your list do you need to help today?

Learning from someone that hasn’t been there

Kirsten 1st birthdayToday we celebrated our daughter’s 1st birthday. I was again amazed by the difference in her personality compared to that of her brothers. Her cake was not demolished by her little hands but rather she used them to carefully remove each of the icing flowers on top, enjoying each one independently. Her little crocodile tears told me that she REALLY wanted the sparkly dress shoes and not the sneakers I had placed on her feet (I promptly changed them after realizing my mistake). And she was perfectly content to let others unwrap her presents, and gratefully shared her new toys with her eager brothers.

In just one year Kirsten has taught me so much. I so easily get caught up in life that I often miss what is really happening around me. I push hard to finish things that I am interested in, often shortchanging their enjoyment, yet Kirsten carefully eats her icing flowers reminding me to savor the experience. I often do things to make others happy, yet Kirsten wears shoes because she likes that they are sparkly. I take ownership of new things, yet Kirsten shares them with others and in doing so reminds me that sharing isn’t just something we teach our children in elementary school, it is something that gives us greater joy in life.

Today I am amazed at the marvelous wonders that a person with zero experience in life can teach. I hope you and I both embrace a fresh perspective this week and learn everything that we can from the people in our lives that haven’t been there.

A Final Note

This next week Cofebuz will be taking part in a dialogue about Client Relationship Management (CRM). The discussion will be held in the industries top six blogs written by an esteemed group of authors. I hope you will take a moment on Monday September 21st to check out not only my thoughts on this important topic, but also that of this great group of people. Just be forewarned that any comments you add on Cofebuz may be included in a upcoming article on the topic in Marketer magazine.

The experts include:

Join us on September 21, 2009 by reading each author’s post at the sites listed and contributing by commenting with your own thoughts and experiences.

Something about all of us

business-relationshipsToday the Design and Construction Network will break 1,800 members, our expansion into Philadelphia for the next networking event is already exceeding expectations, and to date over 500 people that have attended our networking events in Washington DC. It leaves me wondering how it is that the network has experienced such incredible growth.

Something about all of us

I am not alone when I say that, when it comes down to it, I just want to be myself. I want to laugh with friends, experience the ups and downs of life, and leave the world a better place than I left it. I have found more value in relationships than in money, and more monetary profit in building friendships than in making a sale.

Actually, not only do I think I am not alone in these thoughts, I believe that I am in the majority. Yet somehow in business many of us seem to have gotten off track; we have traded relationships for things of lesser value.  We often know that the best results are found in the long-term, but find it difficult when we see the immediate results of others that are focused on short-term success.

Back to the network, back to you.

The Design and Construction Network isn’t a success because of me, it is a success because of great people like Mark Buckshon, Matt Handal, Melissa Allen, Deborah Hayward, Kevin Smith, (the list truly goes on and on) that believe in building long-term relationships, not just creating value for themselves (note that I did not exclude it being of value for them also, I personally believe and hope that each of these people receive a ten fold return from the network). They are great people that simply want to be themselves, to help others, and to laugh with friends. Success is being born simply by bringing these types of people together and building positive momentum towards a shared goal of building relationships.

Your turn

This week it is your turn, to be yourself. To get back to the passions that brought you to where you are at today, to laugh with friends this week, to experience the ups and downs of life, and leave the world a better place than you left it. I hope this week that you experience the long-term gain of helping your friends and building some new relationships.

Return the Favor

Has someone ever helped you to the point that you sat at your desk and tried to think up ways to return the favor?

One such time happened for me in 2006 when a friend worked to get me on a team for a major project that resulted in an $800,000 contract from my company.  What took her 15 minutes (time spent selling someone else on using my firms services) would have cost me 40 hours of phone calls, multiple lunches, and numerous meetings, and even still I wouldn’t have been guaranteed a spot on the team.  Needless to say, I was not only thankful to my friend for her work, but I literally sat at my desk working up ways to return the favor.

 The key to this story wasn’t how she helped to get me on the team; it is how your actions can motivate other people to help you.  Those 15 minutes of work have resulted in dozens of referrals and project leads as I have worked to return the favor.  As my friend focused on helping me, she was developing a mutually beneficial relationship that resulted in me working hard to help her.

If you are looking to increase your effectiveness, start by helping other people in your network.  What can you do today that will leave someone else pondering what they can do to return the favor?

Why Help Other People

holdingbulbsmallI believe that the best way to succeed in life, and business, is to help other people.  A life built around helping others will yield not just the joys of relationships, but also the sweet success of achieving your own goals.  Here are just four of the reasons I choose to live my life by focusing on helping other people:

  1. The Principle of Give and Take – The best way to motivate someone to help you has always been to help them first. Help someone 20 times and they will have a healthy desire to return the favor. This basic principal allows us to understand the power of living a life centered on helping others.
  2. The Power of Friendship and a Strong Network – Most people recognize that it is people (both personal and professional) that lead to the greatest successes in life. Helping others builds a foundation for new relationships and opens the door of communication that can lead to mutually beneficial relationships.
  3. A Historic Perspective – Without question an individual that has left one of the greatest impacts on the world was a carpenter’s son from 2000+ years ago who lived his life to help other people. While many people differ on who Jesus was, everyone agrees that his life has had unprecedented impact. He spoke about this philosophy by stating that you should “love your neighbor as yourself.”
  4. A Life Worth Living – Finally, even if I am wrong I note that I will have lived a life worth living, with a legacy that I will be proud of. We will all know when I turn 80 how successful this approach is, but till then I figure I am living a life that has purpose, meaning, and one that my three children will be proud of when I am gone.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.  Please feel free to send me an e-mail or to contact me though the ‘About the Author’ Tab.

Tim Klabunde

Money, Wealth, and Relationships

moneyOn his Wealth blog this week Kenneth Klabunde wrote a must read article entitled Redefining Wealth. In the article he defines the intersection of wealth and relationships: “Sustainable wealth requires resources and relationships.  Resources include our skills, knowledge, money and property.  Relationships give purpose for these resources, and provide additional resources to complement our own.

It is refreshing that an elite financial guru with clients and readers that have an average net worth of over $2 million dollars focuses on relationships, the core of our human existence. I am certain you will find his post thought provoking!

PS – be certain to check out his earlier posts if you want to see how the nation’s top 2% are responding to the market.

Be selfless

elephantsBack in my college days I was living in a small town south of Rochester, NY. Winters in New York have a way of rapidly rusting mufflers, so I found myself dragging a muffler into a repair shop (literally) in the middle of January to get a quote for a new muffler. When the owner learned that I couldn’t truly afford to get the muffler fixed he did the unthinkable: he took out some sheet metal and welded my old muffler back together to get me through the semester. Why? He understood the power of being selfless.

The power in helping

There is an innate power in helping other people just because you want to and not because you want something. John F. Kennedy’s speech that included the words “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” was so powerful because it represented the idea that collectively and individually we are better when our focus is outward rather than inward. 

So What?

We agree, it sounds great, but what do you get out of being selfless? Nothing and Everything. The moment you are selfless you receive nothing but a feeling that makes you remember what it is like to be appreciated (Perhaps that is more than nothing). However, in business when you are regularly selfless you also get everything: a network of clients, friends, and relationships that want to help you and want you to succeed.

Your turn

If you are under the weight of achieving your own success, perhaps it is time that you consider that the easiest way to achieve that success is to be selfless.

The Digital Crutch

crutchesOn Wednesday this past week Ford Harding (the author of one of my favorite books “Rain Making” and the Harding & Company blog) spoke at the DC chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. As we sat prior to Ford’s talk, I was amazed at the group that had gathered at the head table. In addition to Ford, multiple Web 2.0 experts from the industry, including Mark Buckshon (Construction Marketing Ideas) and Matt Handal (Construction Netcast and Help Everybody Everyday) were engaged in conversation.

I couldn’t help but note how interesting it was that Mark and Matt had taken the time to attend the event in Washington, D.C. Mark had flown in from Ontario Canada and Matt had taken the train from Philadelphia that morning. Each of them showed the importance they place on in-person communication in order to make their businesses succeed, even in light of their prominence in the Web 2.0 world.

The Digital Crutch

Many people I know use technology as a crutch, rather than a tool to build relationships. It is an easy and important form of communication, but what we can’t do is use digital communication to replace human interaction. Even the leading Web 2.0 experts in our industry know that in order to keep their relationships strong, nothing can replace in-person communication.

Are you limping?

Are you limping by with e-mails and a linkedIn account that isn’t focusing on the development of relationships? Perhaps it is time for you to step away from the computer and focus on in-person communication this week.

Anyone can network

social-networking1I believe that anyone can succeed at Networking. I often find it interesting, however, that many people think they don’t have the correct personality to network effectively. After reading a multitude of marketing and networking books I think I know why: most writers denote networking as a sales process.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of sales I think of someone I want to avoid (I’m allowed to say this since I am in marketing and business development, two euphemism for sales). Because of this incorrect association between sales and networking we have created the primary issue that keeps people from networking today. The good news is that networking is not a part of the sales process. Let me explain why anyone can succeed at networking:

 Social Networking Theory/Thesis:

  1. Relationships are the foundation of Networking. Most everyone agrees that relationships are the foundation of networking. What is exciting is that this is the basic reality that serves as the foundation for why anyone can succeed at building a strong network.
  2. Everyone has a God-given instinct to develop relationships. Did you know that everyone on this planet has both a desire and a need to build relationships? My oldest son could be easily classified as an introvert, yet I distinctly remember when he was in preschool how he wanted so badly to make friends with others in his class. This same instinct applies to everyone, even you.
  3. Most people find networking to be difficult. How is it that if networking is all about relationships and everyone has a God-given instinct to develop relationships, that most people have only experienced failure when networking?
  4. The SYSTEM most people think of when they think of “Networking” is flawed. Networking is actually much easier than most people think. It is about building relationships the way we designed to build relationships, simply by focusing on helping one another.
  5. If you simply understand the correct SYSTEM for networking it is easy. Networking is not sales, it is simply a focus on building mutually beneficial relationships. Here in lies the true key to succeeding at networking: when you focus on helping others you will gain the rewards of a network that wants to help you in return.

Networking is about building relationships, something that, as I noted above, we all have a desire and need to do anyway. When most people think about networking at an event they think about “working the room.” When I attend a networking event I instead focus on helping every person that I meet. I make introductions, I give information, and I laugh with friends. Simply put, I focus on building relationships instead of focusing on myself.

The Result

What I have always found amazing it that this type of networking is far more successful than showing up to “work the room.” The people that I would have targeted previously are now introduced to me by friends that I have helped previously. The result is a warm contact that I can follow-up with over time and build a relationship with.

How about you, are your networking relationships about helping other people, or helping yourself? If you are ready to build a network that in truly interested in seeing you succeed, you can start today by helping others to succeed.

Preparing Your Network for a Layoff

layoffThe key to recovering quickly from a layoff is to prepare your network prior to being laid off. Many people make the mistake of waiting until they have lost their job to connect and reconnect with important relationships. Instead of waiting, preparing your network for the possibility of a layoff serves two key purposes:  1) It reengages your relationships so that you have recently been in touch before you call them to let them know you are looking for a new job and 2) Oftentimes making a concentrated effort to strengthen your relationships results in bringing in new work, and since employers seldom layoff employees that are actively bringing new work in the door, you may just spare yourself being laid off all together. With this foundation, here are the steps you should take to prepare your network for a layoff:

  1. Identify your network – Believe it or not, many people never take the time to write down the people in their network. Personally, I maintain a “hot-list” of 20 to 30 relationships that are my core connections, and a longer-list (hundreds or thousands) of connections that that include most of the people I have connected with over the past two years. On my Hot List are the relationships that I can count on and that I have been purposefully building as mutually benificial relationships for years. The longer list contains information on where and how I meet each person and is categorized by where each relationship is in the relationship development process. Taking the time to identify your network will ensure that you are prepared with a list of who to contact and how to contact them in case you are laid-off. It will also serve as your list of contacts to reengage over the next several weeks as you work to prepare your network for the possibility of a layoff. Finally, I use this list as the foundation for developing a strong long-term relationship network.
  2. Connect and re-connect with your network – Your network is only as strong as the relationships in it. If you haven’t connected with someone in over a year they probably won’t be much help in the event that you are laid off. Your goal then is to connect with everyone over the course of the next several weeks. The INCORECT way to do this would be to pick-up the phone and call everyone on the list. This would just lead to hundreds of very awkward conversations. Instead, think about ways that you can help everyone on the list. I often send articles of interest to my network; for example I sent out articles last week about the current government bailout. My goal is to always help others in my network, not simply to brag about a recent accomplishment. Showing others in your network that you are interested in helping them goes a long way to building strong relationships.
  3. Build your brand– If you don’t yet use LinkedIn, it is a great resource. LinkedIn allows you to see when others change jobs and ensures that you never again loose a connection. This is especially important if you change jobs, so that others can find you even if you don’t have a work phone number or work e-mail address anymore. So, what does this have to do with building your brand? Simple, everyone has perceptions, and you can leverage online networking sites (or a blog for that matter) to build your brand. If you are always commenting on and posting information on historic architecture, others will begin to associate you as an expert in historic architecture. In the same light, if no one ever hears from you then you will quickly be forgotten. The idea is to stay visible to others in your network with a consistent image of who you are. How you brand yourself is how people will view you, and how you are viewed, quickly becomes who you are.
  4. Don’t look for a job – Seriously, the worst thing that you can do if you enjoy your current job and you are afraid of a pending layoff is to look for another job. I’ll explain more in my next post “Things NOT to do when preparing for a layoff.” I hope you’ll stop by on Thursday morning to read more!