13 tips to growing business relationships

Today I had 3 clients give me a call about growing their business and they were looking for the BIG secret (dammit I hate the way society has interpreted that book) about how to make successful partnerships. Here is my advice:

  1. Be human.
  2. Love people (even if you have to pretend a little. *caution you are only allowed to do this for a little bit. See below for more on this topic).
  3. Look up people (businesses) you think are cool.
  4. Reach out with an email, a phone call, or my favourite a letter (you know with stamps and everything). Don’t be afraid if they say no, what do you have to lose? You don’t know them now anyway? Just makes room in your schedule to meet with other way cooler people.
  5. Stop being so damn stiff.
  6. Read as much about their stories before you meet them as you can. It is time well spent learning fun facts. It is also usually seen as someone really doing their homework.
  7. Have a meeting at an ice cream parlour, a bar, over some wine, at an art gallery, take them on a hike (aka be different. Show them part of your world or get to know their world a bit). My favourite meetings have been on the canal with some hot chocolate and beaver tails. And no this not some crazy younger generation thing. Last year I met with someone who I did work with on the canal and he was 56 years old and willing to try anything. Remember life and work can be fun if we choose to make it so. I mean all you have to do is ask (what’s the fear, they say no). Throw out the invite or ask them for an invite to a fun spot they love. Most of the clients I know are thrilled to get their butts out of the office.
  8. Listen to their stories.
  9. Ask questions.
  10. Tell a little bit of your story.
  11. Decide whether or not you want to spend more time working on something, anything with them or if you want to jump ship. Then proceed to go or no.
  12. Go away and brainstorm some cool projects and then throw them their way, see if they are interested.
  13. If they seem like good people then nurture that relationship and you just might find yourself beginning to love people, your work, and yourself a bit more.

My strategy all along in life (and it only keeps getting more and more engrained) is that I work with people who I love, who make me laugh, who I have a good time with. You know the saying ‘life is too damn short….well just don’t hang out with people you don’t get along with.

Of course sometimes this can be easier said than done because to be able to know the people you get along with you normally have to know yourself a little bit. If you follow along on here you will have probably figured out I don’t think too many people really do know themselves all that well. In fact I think part of us gets lost everyday when we aren’t doing the things we love. So maybe that is step 1. figure out who the hell you are and what you like first. Really think about it. What are some of your hobbies? When are the happiest, like really really happy? What are you doing? Who are you with? Inside or outside? Crowded or small group? What is something you could talk about all day long without ever knowing the time?

Back to my point, find the people that make you smile and harness all their energy. I have found so much power in reaching out and listening to their stories every day. Good or bad listen to what they have to say and you will learn lots, about them and about yourself. Who knows you follow this sage (hardy-hard) advice and you might just find some new friends along the way to building an amazing business.

ps. The biggest fear I hear all the time about reaching out is “well what if they don’t like me?” Well that is fine. Isn’t it? I mean if they don’t like you then you get to move on. Remember be yourself. I mean if you try to be funny, outgoing, and edgy but really you like being reserved and pretty calm then what is the point of putting on the fake personality? If they don’t like who you genuinely are then working together would probably only be a huge pain anyway.

Now get outta here and go reach out to someone you think is cool (this isn’t high school anymore, even though sometimes it might feel like it, you can talk to anyone. The playground is HUGE).

Small things matter

For a few days now no matter where I seem to be looking or what I seem to be reading (Airbnb: From Stars to Hearts) I am reminded, overwhelmingly I might add, that the small things matter. I always love this message. I mean it sounds obvious. But it is something that I think we often forget as our world moves faster and faster hurdling forward.

When businesses start ‘the small things matter’ seems to be a philosophy that we all understand and follow instinctively. You send thank you notes, you take those out that have supported you for drinks, you spend extra time with your staff, you certainly never released any products or services without testing them to death, you looked after all the small things. Somehow though as we begin to grow we forget the small things. Two of the best (worst?) industry examples of this is how telecommunications companies (Bell, Telus…)  along with the banking world (RBC, BMO…) all have special, ongoing promotions for NEW customers. It is nice to get a special discount or a welcome note. But to this I ask why not a loyalty discount that wants to make me stay (yes a $2 discount coupon is nice but you just gave my friend $500 for switching)? What about a thank you note for being such a loyal customer for over 10 years, perhaps even hand written if you truly care. Perhaps a free month after a year of service wouldn’t kill you? Perhaps even having technical support that seems to want to help me would be nice, is that too much to ask for? Where in all of our business dealings did we forget that we are human beings? Where did we forget about relationship building?

Funny how changing something as simple as the stars on Airbnb to hearts made such a big difference to their business. This is the kind of minute detail work that is needed if you wish to succeed in your business. Almost all of the clients that come to me are looking at the bigger picture and are looking for a re-brand or an overhaul and sometimes that just doesn’t have to be the case. If you take the time to get to know your audience and you understand what matters to them, at the moment (because boy o’ boy can it switch), then making small changes can mean a big difference for you.

Appreciate your customers, appreciate those who supported you early on, make them feel special (because they are), and never stop thinking about the little things (of course don’t sweat them either, but pay attention to them).

So what small things can you think of that might make a big difference?  What small things matter to your customers? To your audience? What small things matter to you?

It’s a numbers game…but what do those numbers tell us?

Many of you may have noticed, I disappeared. Without any warning I just dropped off the “internet” for a little while. The reaction was actually the most interesting part. I got quite a few emails from those who were looking for more ass-kicking. It is amazing to me how much we can touch people’s lives without us never even knowing it. For months and months I had been writing away and posting  things all over the place. Then I decided to take a break. Hide out at a cottage for a while and enjoy some sun and allow for some much needed re-energizing, yes indeed, even a professional ass kicker needs to give his boots a break once in awhile and get his feet firmly back under him. It has been a really wonderful summer! But now I’m back and ready to share some more of my learning from my own life and those around me.

So what have a I learned lately? Well 1 thing is for sure. You are making a difference in people’s lives everyday whether they tell you that or not. Therefore, keep plugging away and doing the work that you love because it is helping. Fascinating to me though that we don’t tell people how much they help us or change our lives so quickly. After receiving some emails after I went “off-air” it made me think-‘wow do I do that to people? Do people help me and I don’t really let them know what a great job they are doing?’ So my mission this month is to thank every person who is excelling at their job and excelling in life to provide me with quick service, friendly smiles, filling my head with wonderful and inspiring information, and all the other good stuff that exists in life. I honestly can’t say that I do that now. I know I complain a lot when I get bad service, someone cuts me off in a line, and/or I get ripped off on some bill but what if I spent more time thanking those that are doing all the little things right? Wouldn’t that make my life and theirs so much better. Perhaps that is the lesson: Ignore those who are not helping and appreciate those who are. Even if it is just the little things.

Ok so what about the title? What about the numbers? Well when I just kind of went “off-air” (it should be noted I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it, it just happened) one of my really close business friends scowled at me and said “WHAT ABOUT YOUR NUMBERS? Shawn you have to keep writing, you have to stay in contact, you have to constantly be publishing, and creating new things, you will lose ALL of your people.” My friend even asked me how often I check my numbers. Believe me I understood where he was coming from. I know that readers like new content and that they do get distracted and venture off onto new things. That said though I’m not NUMBER crazy. I don’t look at my statistics everyday maybe not even every week. I look at the numbers casually but what I’m most interested in is making connections. I want to really understand who it is that is reading the things I write, why they are reading it, and how else I may be able to help. I really want to just get to know people. The best thing about my numbers (at least what I think, and really isn’t that all that matters) is that people from over 50 different countries are reading what I write. I love that I have a chance and have connected with people doing amazing things from all around the world. This internet thing can be just so amazing. It gives us a chance to meet like-minded and diametrically opposed minded people from almost every nook and cranny. I know these numbers get me excited. Even more than the numbers, names get me excited, stories get me excited, personalities get me excited. So what do your numbers tell you? What do you want your numbers to tell you? Loyalty vs Breadth? That is always the question for me.

The lesson I learned from the numbers discussion: Numbers can be important and fun to watch. It helps you understand growth patterns and it can help you decide what is relevant. But, and this is a big BUT don’t get too caught up in the numbers. Remember you are a person and that all the content you are writing is for other PEOPLE. Get to know a few of them if not all of them and you will be amazed at what you can find out.

Welcome back and thanks for sticking around! Next time should I let you know I’m taking a hiatus?