by Falon Fatemi, founder and CEO of Close
Have you ever purchased shoes from Zappos? If so, you can thank the founder Nick Swinmurn.
I met Nick several years ago when he consulted with me about one of his companies. Years later, I wanted to help him out with this great new idea. I introduced him to a talented friend who ended up being the perfect fit for one of his ventures. Building that mutual relationship was rewarding. Magic happened. Nick graciously put a lot of trust in my opinion, and our business relationship continues to grow now that he’s an investor in my company, as well as a close friend and colleague.
I could never have foreseen where that relationship would take me. When I met Nick, I was just an entrepreneur helping out a fellow entrepreneur.
But I learned a great lesson from that relationship: Treat people well and build positive relationships in your business and personal lives because you never know how those will positively affect you down the road or the wonderful relationships that will grow.
Ditch the “Me, Me, Me” Mindset
When you’re building business relationships, it’s easy to get sucked into the “what can you do for me” transaction mentality. Entrepreneurs often measure every person they meet in dollars and potential revenue.
But let me be the first to tell you: It will serve you well to check that attitude at the door. As an entrepreneur, you have to consistently think about where each decision will take your business in the long run while still addressing your short-term needs.
And in the spirit of long-term thinking, you should make a concerted effort to build the quality of your relationships rather than the quantity. Unfortunately, it’s fairly easy to put off a self-serving attitude by only talking about yourself or exhibiting pushy body language rather asking questions about the other person.
How to Build Better Relationships
Luckily, building stronger relationships can be as simple as changing a few bad habits and capitalizing on your good qualities. Here are seven steps to start building better relationships:
1. Identify mutual connections. Want to spark a business connection with someone you haven’t met? Ask a mutual connection for an introduction. Be aware, though, that the person who introduces you is important and can make or break your conversation, so choose wisely.
2. Make the introduction easy for your mutual connection. If you’re meeting someone through a mutual connection, make it easy for that person. Be transparent about your objectives, prepare a blurb for your mutual connection, and allow her to determine how to carry out the introduction. What’s more, if she doesn’t think an introduction is best or appropriate, be respectful of that.
3. Let your connection know how things went. If you do get an introduction, circle back to your mutual connection and provide feedback. Thank her for the introduction, and let her know if anything materialized from the meeting.
4. Ask your new connection about herself. Congratulations on making a new connection! So what’s next? I always begin conversations by asking my new connection about herself. Everyone has a story, and understanding her story allows you to identify her needs, leading to a deeper relationship and better business pitch.
5. Identify her interests. Once you’ve heard her story, look for commonalities and shared values. Building a relationship on common interests and motives sets a strong foundation.
6. Ask how you can help. If there’s a way you can help a potential business partner early in the relationship, do it. Genuine help is the strongest form of building trust.
7. Check your own interests. Throughout the conversation (and the subsequent relationship), make sure to check your own motives. Don’t do something because you want something in return — be genuine, and provide value.
Building meaningful relationships in business requires entrepreneurs to step away from the self-serving, transaction-oriented state of mind. Your motivation for building relationships should be simple: to establish meaningful connections in life.
Today is the perfect day to stop making transactions and start building genuine relationships.
Falon Fatemi is founder and CEO of Node, a stealth startup of ex-Googlers backed by NEA, Felicis Ventures, Mark Cuban, Dave McClure, and more. Falon has spent the past four years as a business development executive doing strategy consulting for startups and VCs and advising a variety of companies on everything from infrastructure to drones. Previously, Falon spent six years at Google starting at age 19. As one of the youngest employees in the company, Falon worked on sales strategy and operations focusing on global expansion, Google.org, and business development for YouTube.