Relationships, balancing ambition to grow with the long game

It’s all about the relationships; your network is your net worth.  We hear this, or maybe even say it, but what does it mean?  How do you actually execute on it?

If there was one thing I wish I had paid more attention to when I was growing my business, it would be this.  I wasn’t dismissive of relationships, though I didn’t always see the long game I was actually playing.  My ambition to grow caused me to unnecessarily lose sight of some key people along the way.  Now, with some time at the wheel, I can see more clearly how things come together.  Let me give you an example.

15 years ago or so, early in my real estate career I sold a house to a woman named Katie Martin.  At the time Katie Martin was just starting in the wedding planning business.  It was not a particularly interesting sale, but Katie Martin was very interesting.  We really hit it off and stayed in touch.  She eventually sold that house and bought another house with Veronica, the first buyer agent I mentored.  I wouldn’t say Katie and I stayed in great touch, but we remained in touch.  She loosely followed the growth of my business and I hers.  Recently we got together for coffee and caught up and it was fun to see how each of us had built our empires over the years.  Katie now owns one of the regions premier event businesses Elegance and Simplicity.

Stay with me, you’ll see how this connects.

One of the new ventures I’m working on is redeveloping and expanding a bed and breakfast business I own in Maryland called Stoney Creek Farm.  Recently I invited Katie out to consult on the project to make sure we’re building an event facility that matches what people are buying in today’s event market.  Katie took my call and came to visit because of the relationship.  I have at least a half a dozen scenarios like that in just the last month.

So here is what I’d say if you’re new to your business endeavor.  Yes, it is all about the relationships, which means you need to track and stay in touch with them.  You don’t have any idea how today’s meeting will help you in the future, though you need some way to stay in touch with and add value to that relationship for years if you want to have an opportunity down the road.  You have to be willing to plant seeds today that you may not harvest for many years.  Have patience, track and stay in touch, and add value.  It will pay off for you when you least expect it.

Now maybe you’re a little further down the road and trying to re-active some relationships.  My advice to you, do it now before you need to.  Start warming the bench, reacquaint yourself with people while you have no agenda or ask.  The best time to call on people is when you need nothing at all – so that when you do, they easily and readily call you back.

Remember, businesses come and go and roles, rarely last for more than a few years.  Relationships are the only thing that last, don’t let your ambition to grow and move on to the next thing cause you to lose sight of the value you’re creating along the way.  Those seeds you planted now must be properly cared for, for years if you’re truly able to harvest when the time comes.