I have bad news for you: we’re losing the art of interpersonal communication. In the age of Tinder, Netflix and chilling and sliding into DMs, it’s starting to seem as though real relationships are a thing of the past. And yet in my experience, the relationships that we build are some of the most valuable assets that we have available to us. This is especially true in the fast-paced atmosphere of a tech startup, where the crazy workload means that there’s no time to mess around.
Whenever I need some video work, copywriting, graphic design or web development completed, I know exactly who to turn to because I’ve already built those relationships and found a team that I can trust.
So let me make it as clear as I can: relationships are everything, and not just to the overly-attached girlfriend.
But how exactly can you build those relationships in the first place? After all, it’s not as though startup employees and the founders who create them are known for having a load of time on their hands.
The good news for you is that I’ve been there, done that and have figured out a few hacks that can help you build relationships without diverting your time away from the important work of building a startup and finding investors.
Here’s are five ways that have worked for me:
When time is at a premium, sometimes the best thing to do is to kill two birds with one stone. We already know that professional events can be a great way to meet new people, so next time you’re at a conference or celebrating an awards win, make sure that you’re also working the room and getting to know people.
In my experience, like attracts like, and I’ve lost track of the number of professional contacts I’ve made from unlikely sources. I’ve met people at barbecues, children’s birthday parties and even by reconnecting with people I went to school with. Just don’t force it. Nobody wants to be that guy.
Make time for people
One of the most common mistakes that people make when networking is to wait for a lull in business before they try to make new contacts. The idea seems to be that you only need to network when you’re looking for a new job or actively trying to take on new clients. This is not the best method.
For starters, your professional network is an asset that you’ll take with you throughout your entire life, and only building it when you’re in a lull means that you’ll end up with way fewer contacts than you might otherwise have made. On top of that, building relationships takes time, and it may well be the contacts that you make when you’re busy that keep you in business when you’re quiet.
Use different touch points
Relationships aren’t only formed in the real world, although it’s true that meeting up in person tends to be more productive and more beneficial to the long-term value that the relationship has to offer.
There used to be a time when the only real way to talk to someone was to pick up the phone, but those days are over. That’s why it’s a good idea to use a mixture of content marketing tactics including email, blog content, social media and more depending upon the context of what it is you have to say.
Building on from the last point, you can’t build a relationship unless you’re adding value to it. If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship where it feels as though one party is doing all the work, you’ll know exactly why the healthiest relationships require input from both sides. If you’re not adding value, the relationship will fizzle out.
In the business world, there are all sorts of different ways to add value. You could offer a free product or service, share white papers and reports that are relevant to your industry, or even simply introduce one contact to another one of your connections if you think they might be able to work together. Be creative!
Play the long game
Building relationships takes time. In fact, many of my most valuable relationships go back 10 years or more, and yet in the early days, there were few opportunities for us to work together.
The important thing to remember is that the relationships you develop will continue to pay dividends for the months and years to come. In that respect, the best approach to relationship building is to think of it as like managing a sports team. Sure, it’s nice to win matches, but it’s far more important to spend time nurturing talent and developing a world class team that can win season after season.
It can be tempting to forget about relationship building or to make it such a low priority that it never really happens in the first place. Avoid that temptation, especially if you want to be successful.
They say it’s not what you know that matters but it’s who you know. I’d disagree with that because I think you need both, and I think they’re of equal importance. But in the same way that you can enhance what you know by reading, practicing and learning on the job, you can enhance who you know by simply making time for networking and trying to add some value.
Remember what keynote speaker Porter Gale said: “Your network is your net worth.” And building relationships with people is a great way to increase both.