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Relationships

It's quite an honor to speak to Fast Company's readers.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about relationships.

I look at Yahoo. That started as a relationship between two kids who were attending Stanford. Apple? A relationship between two high-school students in Silicon Valley.

As I look back on my life, all sorts of good things happened due to relationships.

But, how many people really think about cultivating relationships?

Not many, in my experience. Let's talk more about relationships and see if we can discover some new ways to network.

The other day I was in Best Buy (since I do video for a Microsoft site, I am a frequent customer) and I was talking to the woman who runs the camcorder department. Her name is Sarah. She said something the other day that shocked me:

"You're the among the nicest Microsoft employes I've ever dealt with."

Now, this isn't about tooting my own horn. It's about a life skill I picked up somewhere. It's so important that I added it to my corporate weblog manifesto.

Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated.

"But what does this have to do with blogging or you being on Fast Company?"

Here's the deal. The more people who are in your personal network AND who like you, the more likely good things will come your way.

Yesterday I was sitting at a bar with some coworkers. I noticed a nicely dressed gentleman sitting nearby and it looked like he wanted to talk with someone. I turned around and said "what do you do?" I quickly learned he was a Vice President in charge of Finance at Starbucks.

In the plane I make a point of talking to people next to me if they look even halfway interested. On one trip I was sitting next to a vice president for Amazon. On another, the CEO of REI. Yes, I've sat next to lots of school teachers, plumbers, salespeople, and other interesting people.

I treat them all the same. I try to learn something about them. Find out what makes them special. I always trade business cards, if possible.

It's these little encounters that lead to interesting experiences and friendships (and stories for my blog).

Otherways I try to build relationships? I regularly have "geek dinners" anytime someone in my network comes to Seattle or to Microsoft's headquarters (and anytime I travel I always put one together where I visit too).

I open my home from time to time to readers of my blog (RSVP).

When I'm out in public I seek out anyone who is using technology. Are you playing with a cell phone at a bar? I might ask you about it. Are you a computer user in an airport? I will talk with you about it (even if it's not a Microsoft product — I want to figure out how to improve our products to appeal to you too).

In every single one of these conversations I've learned something, or found a new contact, or even built longterm friendships.

Funny, when I put Gnome-girl in my corporate weblog manifesto, she was jobless and didn't seem like someone you should pay attention to.

Today she's running the support department at Technorati.

In the 1980s I was a lowly salesclerk at a discount camera store. Today, my coworker, Brian Theodore is a technologist at Reuters and I'm running a marketing site for Microsoft.

It's why I treat Sarah at Best Buy very well. Who knows? Someday she might be my boss.

So, do you have stories about how you built relationships? How you treated someone who you didn't think was important, but later turned out to be really important?