We had a great business deal just handed to us last week. We provide youth sports programs and we partner with cities, park districts, companies, etc. It's pretty rare for us to lease our own facilities. We rely heavily on the partnerships we create. Well last week a city in CA with GREAT facilities called us up, arranged a meeting and said, "it's all yours" pointing to large outdoor fields and an indoor gymnasium. When someone just hands you a business opportunity it always surprises me, but when you think about it, it makes sense. You see people prefer to work with people they know, like and trust. Oh, that doesn't mean they won't work with others. "Bidding you out" helps keep you honest. But let's face it, when all else is the same, you want low risk and low hassle and to reward those that have been good to you. It's natural and it's something EVERYONE should cultivate. You should cultivate that in your personal life, as well as, your professional life.
Let's just call it our interpersonal golden rules. It makes for a good person and a good business.
1) Treat everyone with respect. Before you say "well of course" really do a little self-examining. Do you treat an accounts payable person at a company with the same regard as the CEO? It ends up our new deal came courtesy of an assistant manager at a city we partner with who moved over and up into a new position in the new city. We make it a point to treat everyone with respect regardless of position, rank or authority. It sure came back to us. How do you treat the secretaries, interns, admins and for that matter the janitor that happens to be in the bathroom at the same time you're using it?
2) Take the time to know something personal about people and really remember it. I like to find out what interests outside of work people have and get some more details on personal life. Children and pets as topics usually bring a smile to people's faces and their whole body posture just seems to relax as they talk. I find it really helps me relate better to people as "people" and not just positions or symbols of what I can gain when I learn personal information. It also helps me remember that person even if I don't see them for some time. By the way, give people the opportunity to know a bit about you as well. You shouldn't create a one-way "syphon" of personal information.
3) Always consider how you can help someone. Really think about it. It could be as simple as information that you spend extra time to adapt for their business use, thus saving them time and effort. It could be an article online or a special report or piece of information that is relevant to them personally or professionally. It shows you are listening to them and you're thinking about them. Barring that, always send thank you notes or emails after meeting with people. You'd be surprised how often people focus on setting up a meeting but don't really follow through after with even basic communications.
4) Learn to give without expecting anything in return. I find that success and forward motion in life has more to do with our relationships than our specific talents. If we respect people, know about them personally and truly want to help them then giving without expectation of reciprocation is natural. You will also find that when you need something many, many people are eager to help.
Here is the final thing to keep in mind. The golden rules above don't fit neatly into a business plan, a financial projection or a sales pipeline. It is not something you can "bank on". Some people would discard this as "soft skills". But what it tends to yield is a series of pleasant surprises that multiply again and again and at an accelerating pace the longer you stay with your business and interact with people in your industry.
So the next time you meet with someone new please spend the first 5 minutes getting to know things about them personally and commit those facts to memory. Follow the golden rules and the rewards will follow.