The business ownership bug was sparked early in my life. At 15 I bought out my brother’s DJ business. He was graduating high school and wasn’t interested in DJ’ing dances anymore. The ‘purchase’ consisted of some music, an amp, and some homemade light bars. I was IN BUSINESS! My friend Scott had his license already AND a car, so we became business partners! We would buy music together, keep up on the equipment and split any money we earned. It was fun.
When Scott wasn’t interested anymore, I took on another partner, with a bigger vehicle, better equipment and we moved from high school dances to weddings. There was some decent money involved in DJ’ing wedding receptions and we were one of the few options in our area. We did this on weekends when I was home from college and after that became too much, I bought Jim out and started doing frat parties, the military ball and lots of college weddings. I earned enough money for all of my living expenses for college. There was one fraternity where over the course of a year I DJ’d 8 weddings for the fraternity brothers. They got to know and trust me, and I enjoyed working with them.
After I graduated college I quit the DJ business in search of a ‘real job’. I knew I wanted to be involved in business, but I didn’t know exactly what that looked like. I worked a series of staffing, tech startup, network and website sales businesses, and learned various things about business development and marketing that I knew were helpful, but none of those jobs ever seemed quite right. I figured if I worked hard enough, long enough someone would ‘take me under their wing’ and bring me into their business… I dreamed about it.
The scenario went like this… I would be on a beach somewhere on vacation, and start talking to the person that owned the beach boat rental/coffee shop :). They would be close to retiring and looking for JUST the right person to take over. After hanging out with me for a few days, the would decide I was that person and give me the keys on the way out the door, with a wink and a pat on the back. This would be the start of my new life and my new business.
That’s the movies.
The reality has been a winding road of wins and losses, sleepless nights, incredible highs and scary lows. What I’ve learned is that nobody is going to hand me anything, but ‘big breaks’ do happen.
Here’s a secret that they don’t teach you in business classes. You can increase the likelihood of doors opening by increasing your relationships. Great relationships will lead to introductions, opportunities and help you build your reputation.
My friend Kevin introduced me to an organization that I’ve been working with for a couple of years now. That organization hired me to coach them on social media and digital marketing, had me speak at a couple of their conferences and introduced me to their board. That board introduction led to two monthly clients, and the conference speaking led to a client, and I’m now in discussion with someone else that I met at that conference that owns 4 businesses. The proposal for business #1 is getting written right after I post this blog.
Without Kevin’s introduction, none of that would have happened. You know what’s interesting? In the 8 years or so I have known Kevin, I’ve only worked on 1 small project for him. However, I’m always here when he calls me and I care about him. I know about his family life, his faith, his future dreams.
What does it take to have a strong relationship with someone?
Who is the Kevin in your life? Do you have one? Many? The great thing about relationship-building is that it can begin at any time. If you want to develop stronger relationships with those around you, here are some things I’ve noticed along the way that can help:
- Listening: Really listening. Not listening when it’s convenient and not looking at your phone every 5 minutes while meeting.
- Check In: Have you called the people that help you out? Emailed them? Checked in on Social Media?
- Give: Kevin’s called me with some questions that needed answers I could have charged for. This can be a tricky spot for a consultant/coach but I understand the value of our friendship. I will always help him and if there is an opportunity to work together on something that takes real time, he’s proven he’ll pay me for that.
- Breaks are For Everyone: The best breaks come to those that are the best networked, and NOT ONLY the best at every job. I know plenty of highly skilled workers that don’t seem to get the best breaks… It’s not because they aren’t capable, they aren’t focused on the OTHER skill that must accompany their talent – and that’s relationship building.
- Make Introductions: Recently while talking with a friend that develops software for the church market, I brought up a client that also sells software to that market. Their products are VASTLY different, but both of these folks have similar goals. I’m making an introduction. I won’t profit from this directly… I’m not a ‘channel partner’ or ‘reseller’ for either software platform. However this could improve BOTH of their businesses. Why would I hold onto that information? One of my taglines at the end of the many ‘introductory emails’ I send is “in my quest to get all of the good people on the same team.” This is something I love doing and seeing the benefits from my introductions makes me super happy.
The truth is you have to do quality work to get quality referrals, but you will increase your chances of being on a bigger radar if you are building great relationships. GO MEET SOMEONE FOR COFFEE! – To learn how to do this masterfully, check out my ebook, 30 Days Sales Generator by signing up for my email list.
Have you tracked your big breaks back to individuals? Have you thanked them?