On a recent Sunday afternoon, after a sleepless night where one of the children woke me up because they were sick, and my unregrettable decision that we should all leave for a family hike at [5:30] in the morning, I plunked myself down on the sofa and did something I only do once per year, munched on some dark chocolate morsels, and lingered over the NY Times. In an article where a woman turned a relationship with her renters into a career that would elevate her net worth to over $500 million, it begged the question – how do we find and nurture mutually beneficial business relationships?
The tenants of the woman’s apartment were none other than start-up dreamers, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They had programmed a search engine and had a dream to connect the right people to the right information. The woman, a Harvard grad, joined the company pre-revenue, and that company, as you may know, is Google, and the woman is Susan Wojcicki. Obviously, it was a good tenant – landlord relationship.
I once asked Gen Z expert, Connor Blakely, how he became so successful. Connor has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, and others. His reply was this, ‘I spent two years building and cultivating relationships with the people who were either in the spaces I wanted to be in, or who could get me to those people.’
Through Blakely, I have met other Gen Z phenoms including Hoopswagg founder, Brennan Agronoff, who at 13, launched a custom sock business from his garage. He was a millionaire at 16, and coincidentally, at 18, is keynoting at my online marketing and mindset event – Only 4 Days. Brennan credits his success to the old Henry Ford principle, ‘surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are.’ He just launched a new business – custom oven mitts. Stay tuned on that one.
My role as president of Radius AI was due to a serendipity and follow-up. I was running an idea I had for a software company by a friend who co-founded a start-up incubator in the tech space. After the meeting, we walked out the door, and met with two rather tall men, in suits, who were going into the office across the hall. One asked if I was Susan Sly to which I shyly responded, ‘yes.’ I am not a shy person however I am still startled when strangers ask me this.
The man’s wife was a fan. After a round of introductions, I was informed that the other man had started an AI company. I have had a longtime curiosity about AI and the man suggested we meet. I snapped a photo of his business card on my Keap APP which is programmed to automatically follow-up. (As an aside, the digital agency I founded, can set you up with this simple technology).
When the man received my follow-up note and a link to my schedule, he booked an appointment. After a couple of re-schedules we finally met. I offered to help him with something for free. After proving my worth, he gave me an offer and now we are preparing to scale the company almost one year after meeting.
We hear the stories of serendipitous chance encounters where unicorn level business deals are born however there is much more to it than luck. The reality is that the most successful people are generally master relationship builders and generally come with a specific set of skills. Will learning these skills get you in Fast Company like Mr. Blakely or give you a net worth of over $500 million like Ms. Wojcicki? Will you become the president of an AI company and find yourself in meetings with multi-billion-dollar tech companies? The answer is – who knows however why not explore the possibilities?
6 Steps to Building Million Dollar Business Relationships
Master relationship builders follow-up. In one business, where I became quite successful, the person who wanted me to take a look at it, followed up with me 21 times in 21 days. Yes, that may sound aggressive however I am deeply grateful she did.
Personally, I use the Keap tool to automate my follow-up. Life can get pretty full and even people that I truly want to follow-up with can go by the wayside. As mentioned, I simply snap a photo of their business card and let the tech do the rest.
2. Use The Mackay 66
Harvey Mackay, famed author of Swim With the Sharks or Get Eaten Alive, has taught me to always do my homework. Harvey created the Mackay 66 – the 66 things you should know about a person before going into a negotiation or a meeting.
I teach my staff to always do the Mackay 66, or at least give me as much information as they can about people I meet with. I want to know their education, family status, career highlights, personal accomplishments, whether or not they eat meat, what their religious and political affiliation is – basically, I want to be informed of any potential potholes that could arise as we are doing business and talking points. People love to talk about themselves so bringing up their accomplishments is powerful.
3. Figure Out What You Can Offer in Value
When I first met Radius Co-Founder, Jeff Cox, he offered to share his wisdom in building a start-up. Jeff previously designed software solutions for Wells Fargo, Apple, and others. He was no stranger to big and small business. He also saw me as a potential investor. Jeff understands that if you can get your foot in the door by offering something to someone that they want, they become receptive to giving you something you want.
Master relationship builders figure out very quickly how to give something in value as a point of interest. If you want to connect with people who are more successful than you are, this is a key area.
4. Find Common Ground
People do business with people they like and trust – period! People trust people with whom they have something in common. In my Radius role, we have a multi-billion dollar company that we are in talks with to potentially do some business. Their chief decision maker is from Canada and their second, in these talks, is also from Canada.
After doing my homework, and walking into the meeting as the only woman and the ‘baby’ in the modern tech world, I knew I needed to create common ground. I found out that their chief decision maker and I grew up 45 minutes from one another and that his college roommate was a friend of mine. Did this seal the deal? Not necessarily however it gave us common ground talking points and accelerated the relationship.
Master relationship builders find common ground. They get to ‘trust’ quickly so that people want to do business with them. You can do this by doing your homework as previously mentioned and also asking questions. Don’t try to the person in the room with all of the answers, be the person who asks the questions and see what that does for the relationship.
5. Know What You Want But Explore Multiple Outcomes
In business, most people have an agenda and that agenda is often what suits that person. The best relationship builders know what they want however they are willing to explore multiple outcomes.
Recently, I was introduced to a man who is the CEO of a large company that deals with thousands of retailers. He agreed to meet because a trusted advisor suggested it. Initially, he was there to listen, have a meal, and politely leave however after showcasing how we might be able to add value to him, we began to explore multiple outcomes of this newly forming relationship that include potential joint ventures and funding.
Master relationship builders are very open to allowing the process to unfold. They know what they want however they are very aware that something even better may emerge.
6. Find Creative Ways to Build the Relationship
I have a friend in the credit card processing business. He wanted to do a deal with a potential client and couldn’t get a meeting. He decided to send a sheep – yes, a real farm animal, to his office with a bow on it saying, ‘if you want to do business with sheep, be my guest. If you want to do business with someone different, call me.’ He got the appointment and the deal.
Harvey Mackay was already a NY Times best selling author when he ran into Larry King. Mr. King was at the height of his popularity on CNN and Mr. Mackay wanted to be on the show. He found out that Mr. King was writing a book. He said, ‘listen, I have navigated the publishing world and would love to give you some advice on what not to do.’ Mr. King said, ‘you have five minutes, jump in my limo.’ Mr. Mackay rode with him for five minutes, they exchanged cards and eventually Mr. Mackay went on Larry King Live.
Today, they are still close friends. Thanks to my association with Mr. Mackay, I had the privilege of spending time with Mr. King at his home in Beverly Hills, listening to his stories, and garnering some incredible insights. If not for one of the most masterful relationship builders in my life, that never would have happened.
Master relationship builders search for ways to creatively build relationships. They are not afraid of ‘out of the box’ thinking.
Lastly, if you want to grow and scale your business, building relationships is critical. To close with the words of Harvey Mackay, ‘if I lost everything today, as long as I still had my relationships, I would have it back again within 2 years.’ That is the power of relationships.