Whether you’re starting a new company today, plan to launch one tomorrow or have been in business for years, there’s one undeniable fact on which virtually all business leaders agree: no man or woman is an island. Just as important as a strong skill set, financing, effective marketing, and hiring in the smartest way possible is the need for cultivating business relationships.
It’s easy in this age of social media to build virtual networks and online relationships, but in many cases it’s the people you know face-to-face who will play a larger and more important role in your company’s success.
“Your most important asset is your network – not your virtual network, your real one,” says Steve Tobak, author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow. “Every successful executive and entrepreneur will tell you, their most important asset is their network, and they don’t mean social network. They mean people they actually know and work with in real time because they’re the ones that actually get things done. One real relationship in the real world is worth more than 10,000 social media links, likes or followers.”
Sumit Mahajan, CEO of home furnishings company Mahajan Home, agrees. “We believe that relationships are essential in building and producing any product or solution,” he writes. Over the past 15 years we have developed a comprehensive network of local and global partners which is built on some fundamental values; alignment, collaboration and integrity…”
Many successful companies have been conceived through synergistic and mutually beneficial relationships. Often, referrals come from those relationships as well. So it’s no secret that a good opportunity can come from anywhere or anyone.
Corporate law attorney Emily Brackstone, a shareholder in the Memphis office of Baker Donelson and vice chair of the firm’s emerging companies team, says, “Individuals naturally will want to expand the business they do with people they enjoy working with and, in many cases, may even create other business opportunities for those they enjoy working with, There is no better source of business than referrals from satisfied customers.”
Executive Bobby Genovese says that entrepreneurs would be well-advised to cultivate positive relationships at every opportunity. He considers himself very much a people person, something that served him well when he was starting out.
“During my younger days,’ Genovese, “I worked in a bar in Toronto. It was at that time when I realized how different people are, and I quickly learned the art of persuasiveness so I could relate to people at all levels. I was then able to take that gift and expand it to learn what the general public wants, and what I believed I could bring to the public.”
Genovese recalls the time in his 20’s when he took a chance and invited the head of every brokerage firm in Vancouver to a dinner he was hosting. By mentioning the guests names to each other when he was inviting them, he was able to bring together several of the most powerful leaders in the region.
“The dinner went very well, and by the end of it, they all knew my name,” he says. “It was because of that dinner that I became involved in a company called Continental Gold, which did very well in a short period of time.”
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to continually build your network and nurture your relationships. You never know where it might lead. Many CEOs are active in industry groups, participate in networking opportunities, play golf with business contacts, and more. Not only will meeting and getting to know more people enrich your life, but it’s also likely that you may discover a new partner or collaborator.