Just sent a new book proposal draft off to my agent. She’ll tell me where it’s weak, I’ll fill in the gaps, and we’re off to the races. I’m very excited about this project. So is she. Actually, the concept was her idea. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have an agent like Carole. Seriously.
Everything in business is built on relationships. Everything. 23 years in the high-tech industry, I don’t believe I ever submitted a resume for a job. Not once. Every job came from a relationship. Nearly every consulting gig I’ve had since, as well. Some relationships spanned years. Decades.
Here’s the thing. Business relationships are not the way you think. They’re not two-way streets, at least not at first. If you expect relationships to be two-way streets, you’d have none. They always start with one person putting himself out there. Making an offer. A suggestion. A gesture. Doing something for someone for no apparent reason, with no gain in mind.
You don’t just say to yourself, “I’m going to go out and build relationships now.” You just don’t. You can’t do it to get something out of it, either. That’s not how it works, at least not real relationships. You have to do it just because. Because you’re a people person. Because you love people.
Speaking of love, if you go out looking for it, you’ll never find it. Same thing with business relationships. That’s why I object to the term networking. I have never networked, but I have one hell-of-a network now. Go figure.
Business relationships are not about quid pro quo. What goes around does come around, but not on a one-to-one basis. You never know when someone you used to hang out with at work, after work, at conferences, or in another part of the world will just show up with an opportunity. Just like that.
Business relationships are about being open and genuine. Going out of your way to help associates. Connecting with others on a personal level. Caring about their lives, listening to their stories, sharing your own, especially the good ones.
They’re not about being nice. I’m not. Not even a little. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who’s ever worked for me. Ask any of my friends. Better yet, ask my wife. She’ll tell you. After she stops laughing and catches her breath. She can tell you stories. You don’t have to be nice. You just have to be yourself. And give of yourself.
Friends. Enemies. Competitors. Doesn’t matter. They’re all frienemies. They’re all relationships.
More than anything, relationships are about putting yourself out there and saying yes a lot. They take time. I know I’ve told you that I’m a workaholic, but that includes spending time goofing around, getting to know people, having fun, and building relationships. I’ve always been that way. It’s just what I do.
If not for relationships, I have no idea what you’d be doing right now, but you wouldn’t be reading this, because I’d have nothing to offer. You and I would have no relationship. I don’t know what kind of career I would have had, but it would not have been this one. And let me tell you, things could not have turned out better. Not a chance.
Image of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates credit Joi Ito via Flickr