During my first hands-on experience in business, I was working for a bank. I was “building relationships” at the bank. The banking world had a very structured idea of how to build relationships at the time. A relationship in banking speak was loosely defined as the amount of business that a customer had with the bank. By knowing your customer more, you could grow the “relationship” through selling bank products that fit the customers borrowing and excess cash needs. The customer returned the favor by paying their loans on time and growing their deposit account balances. While I liked to think of it as developing a friendship when I golfed with customers or had a drink with them, back at the bank, the management looked for results when I filed my expense reports. Management’s thinking made sense, of course as the bank was a for profit business.
After leaving the banking business, I started several of my own businesses over the next few years and ran them using the corporate set of rules that I learned earlier in the banking business. It was the mid 2000’s. I defined a business relationship as one that was mutually beneficial for my customers, myself, and partners. But the mid 2000’s were a period of being excessive and dollar-minded throughout the economy. Something important was missing in the business world. In the mid 2000’s, American business was missing a subconscious.
Aftermath and Emergence of Trust Economy
After the collapse of the financial markets in 2008-2009, something changed. Funding and capital were scarce and people were humbled. I was one of them. I chose to start a new business in January, 2009 (I know timing, right?). Because my business focus was distressed assets, it turned out to be a good move. Despite being in the right industry (specifically housing foreclosures), the year 2009 was a year of startup anxiety for me. My business was very capital intensive. Investors were still running for the hills so my partner and I relied on friends, family, and fools, as they say, to capitalize our business. I made the decision at the end of 2009 to leave Tennessee and move to New York City to learn more about capital markets and “build relationships” while my partner stayed in Tennessee to run our business there. Our business was growing, but not to our expectations. I felt it was time to meet with new investors and that I couldn’t do that inside our local bubble.
When I arrived in New York, it was early 2010 and while the financial markets started to heal, optimism was everywhere. I quickly noticed that many entrepreneurs were also capital constrained, some of them very seasoned. Because I was surrounded by more entrepreneurs than at any point in my life and a greater variety (not just my industry), I noticed a certain segment of entrepreneurs seemed to have more success than others. What set apart these business owners? Introductions.
I learned quickly that the entrepreneur of the new normal would get to know you, and after the usual small talk would ask one simple but important question:
“What are you working on?”
That question would spark a meaningful conversation that often lead to questions and comments such as:
“What issues are keeping you up at night?”
“Have you thought of….?”
After the conversation, contact information was exchanged like any ordinary meeting.
After one of these meetings, I sent the standard, thank you email to the entrepreneur I met after I researched him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google (It may sounds a little like cyber-stalking but if you Google someone you just met and find them all over Rip-off Report, you may want to think twice about interacting with them). But this is where the relatively normal meeting took a different turn…
Epiphany and Emergence of the Subconscious as the new Relationship Builder
I received the standard, “It was great meeting you…” response to my follow up email.
But then shortly after I received another email:
This moment proved critical in changing my world view on how I defined relationships. The intent of the person making the introduction is something which I will never forget. There was no, “Hey Ryan, I’m going to introduce you to someone, and if you guys do business, I want a piece of it.” Nothing like that. That model was officially OLD SCHOOL and out. The introduction email had activated my subconscious. For 4 years now I’ve received introduction emails from the person who made that introduction. I’ve reciprocated in kind.
Result and Application Today
In my opinion the currency of introduction is more powerful than any commission arrangement, joint venture, or any other tangible demand for a connection. Certain business will probably always run on a prearranged fee for introductions (Investment Banking?), however your business doesn’t have to.
Consciously knowing that someone has taken time out of their life to figure out who might be of benefit to me or my business has had a powerful effect on how I approach meeting someone. In fact, knowing this creates a subconscious debt of which we should desire to repay. Unlike a financial obligation where it the value of paying the debt is clearly defined, the value of repaying an introduction has no limit to its upside.
Instead of approaching a meeting with the question: “What benefit will result for me or my business?” try these questions:
“What challenges does the person I’m meeting with face?”
“What keeps them up at night?”
“Who can I connect them to?”
As an entrepreneur, your time is the most precious commodity you’ll ever have. So why spend it trying to help others solve issues in their business? Frankly, I can’t think of a better use of time when you meet someone. While not everyone will understand why you actually care about the issues they are facing, others will. These are the folks will reciprocate by connecting you to the people and resources to grow your business, solve your challenges, or just build the support group that every entrepreneur needs in their journey.
Best of all, you don’t need to be a social media rock star to do this. You don’t need to have 50,000 followers, 5,000 friends, or 1,000 LinkedIn contacts. Hell, you don’t even need have a LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook profile. The size of your network has little relevance.
Success through Introduction Quick Steps:
Creating genuine interest in the prosperity of your business from others can make the difference between success and failure. Once you change your worldview and start connecting people to those they need to know, the social reciprocity you create will surprise you. And while the effects won’t happen overnight, they will happen.
Now take 5 minutes and connect 2 people you know that could benefit from an introduction!