The Business of Relationships

You are in the business of relationships. Make that your mantra. Make it your team's mantra. Post it on your wall in your office. It doesn't matter if you're B2C or C2C. It doesn't matter what it is you're selling. Life is all based on our relationships. Whether it's our relationship to the things we hold (do we own our stuff or does it own us?) to the people and pets we love, to the people we don't quite love.

Say it out loud to yourself: I am in the business of relationships.

On my climb to Kili, I learned my fair share about relationships. In fact, my eyes were opened to the potential of every relationship we build, no matter how important or passory. When you're climbing a mountain with guides and a crew, you have no choice but to build relationships with them. You have to learn to trust each other. In that oft-dangerous vertical world, the people around you could be the difference between making it and... not making it.

Masu, my guide, made it his personal mission to encourage me and motivate me on the climb. He knew I was willing to die for it and he brought in equal amounts of energy. The relationship I'd established with Sipao and his family was important to me. In fact, he was the reason I was making the climb. Without Sipao and his family, I'm not sure I would have kept the motivation to reach the summit.

Sipao is now 9 years old and thriving in school. I’ve already been back to visit him and I’ve promised I’d visit him in Kenya every couple of years at least. I nurture that relationship and the relationships I have with the other 25 children I’ve sponsored around the globe through correspondence. Like you and everyone else in the world, my life is based on relationships and serving those relationships.

No Mountain Necessary

I'm not insinuating you've got to climb a mountain for someone or go on a self-discovery quest to understand the nature of relationships. That's just one example that helped me understand the importance of strong bonds between people. Wherever you are — whatever you do — you're significant to more people than you know. Someone is relying on you to help them succeed, to bring them value, or just to bring them joy. Yes, even in the professional realm.

In the business world, relationships are often focused on the earnings aspect: build trust so you can sell someone something. I think that money-first approach is no way to live. It hardens people and builds cynicism.

There's nothing wrong with focusing on the money — it's a damn good reason to work hard — but I think many business people see dollar signs where they should see a future of constant mutual value. When you focus on value, your horizons broaden. More people start choosing you, the recommendations come flooding in. People share with others that you're not just "another business." When you become more than a place to buy, you stand out.

The trick? Be sincere. You have to learn to approach these things with sincerity and really believe in what you're doing. People can read right through someone that's just looking for a sale. I know you've felt the difference before. Sometimes, we get that awful gut feeling when someone is faking a smile just to get a signature. Other times, we feel like we've really connected with someone and aren't looking at the invoice — we're thinking about the prospects of investing.

With clients, strong relationships end the "selling" process and introduce a dimension of exchanging value. That's where you want to be. Remember that people do business with those they know, like and trust.

Relationships in the Workforce

Build strong relationships with your colleagues and leadership. Lead whenver you can and let others lead you. Take advice and give it out in equal measure. Some day, you'll be in that leadership position. Leadership is an inevitability when you're focused on building valuable relationships.

Get to know the people you work with as if they were the people you choose to be with. Learn about who they are, not just their job description. When you allow people to speak up about themselves, you're allowing them to fascinate you. When you show people you care, they are magnetized to you and want to give back just as much value. Not only does this contribute to a more enjoyable work environment, it leads to cooperation, which precedes great success.

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