I spent the past weekend with a great group of friends, and we had a grand old time sharing stories, having dinner, drinking wine and really having a lot of laughs. It got me thinking about the close relationship I have with this group and how these friendships compare to my business relationships. The most glaring revelation is how drastically different they are. I profess all the time about building unbreakable relationships, but there has to be a clear distinction among the categories of relationships you have.
The group that Patricia (my friend of 26 years and wife of 18 years) and I were hanging out with is a tight-knit group. Many of the folks I’ve known for over 25 years. Some I have known for 35 years, and I’m only 45. The manner in which you can approach these friends is so different from the way you can chat with “business friends.” Even though you believe the relationship is solid, there are clear classifications and levels of relationships. It’s important to know who fits where and to be cognizant of how you engage with folks on different levels.
At one time in my life, I thought that the best way to build a network was to treat everybody the same – as a close friend. That’s just wrong, and I was foolish to think of it that way. The fact is, some folks just don’t want to be your friend. They may have to work with you, deal with you, and interact with you because of specific obligations, but that doesn’t mean they want you as their best buddy. And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that. We are all so consumed about what the perfect relationships are that we sometimes lose site of what, more importantly, the appropriate relationships are. I, too, have made this mistake in the past.
However, this being said, although varying classifications of business relationships exist, if you separate folks into buckets, that could be an even bigger mistake. I’m sure you possess relationships that you consider strictly business. They are not your friends, they don’t care to be your friends, and quite frankly, you feel the same way. No harm, no foul. You treat them respectfully and interact with them in a pure working relationship, and that’s where it ends. You, right now, are comfortable with that approach. But here comes the potential pitfall.
Just because you do not view them as a friend, doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable relationship to have in business. Sometimes folks equate “friend” as good, and “non-friend” as bad. It’s really not that simple. You still have to invest time with these folks beyond the pleasantries of the weather and the score of last night’s game. You have to make sure not to ignore them or discount their thoughts just because you don’t classify them as friends. Often, because folks don’t connect on a personal level, they don’t invest the same time into each other, and tend to migrate toward those with whom they have more in common. This is a crucial mistake. Although you do not want to treat these folks as close personal friends, that doesn’t alleviate you from the importance of investing time into the relationship. This is a natural method of operating – but you have to stop conforming to what you know and are comfortable with.
Regardless of personal preferences, all business relationships should be approached with the same effort and dedication, regardless of the obvious common interests. Keep these points in mind to assist in your efforts:
1) The lack of initial commonality should be a great indicator for you to work harder at building that relationship.
2) Don’t let laziness lead you to avoidance of a particular relationship.
3) Constantly think about how to build commonality.
4) Even though you can’t treat these relationships in the manner you would treat your closest friendship, that doesn’t mean there is not value in the relationship.
5) Don’t let fun dictate which relationship gets more attention.
6) View all business relationships for having the potential for growth, and don’t let valuable ones get away just because they appear not to fit you.
7) Don’t cut corners. Spend time building all relationships that make up your network.
These are just a few points that you should think about before you avoid investing in a potential relationship. If you pay attention, you will have much more success in building a larger, more solid network. And let’s face it, your success is not about your net worth, it’s about the size and quality of your network.