Fast Company

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?

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7 Comments

  • Fredick Blar

    Great post Robert. The sooner people who aren't forced by career (say, the salesperson) to warm up to the importance of relationship management the better. I think you've done an excellent job at MS at reaching out to anyone and everyone via your blog in a genuine, unbiased (most of the time!), and professional manner. I think you're right, it's not so much about how many people you know, it's more about how you manage those relationships and the willingness to put in as much, if not more, then you get out.

    When in NY, you're welcome anytime at my place!
    fx15

  • Brian Theodore

    Great post Robert. The sooner people who aren't forced by career (say, the salesperson) to warm up to the importance of relationship management the better. I think you've done an excellent job at MS at reaching out to anyone and everyone via your blog in a genuine, unbiased (most of the time!), and professional manner. I think you're right, it's not so much about how many people you know, it's more about how you manage those relationships and the willingness to put in as much, if not more, then you get out.

    When in NY, you're welcome anytime at my place!

  • Peter

    I absolutely agree with your article, the most items are basic values in my view. You said "Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated." and that's where it all starts. In sales relationships people buy at first from YOU and only secondly from your company. So, your behaviour makes the difference!

  • Gautam Ghosh

    I really don't know how many business relationships have Orkut/Ryze/Linkedin giving genesis to. Selling and buying, lots possibly. Recruiting? Sure..

    But partnerships to launch a new business?

    Unlikely...face to face meetings and actual 'knowing' matters then !

    Gautam

  • Rosa Say

    Great post Robert, thank you for sharing it. We all deal with a lot of high end, high tech stuff in business, wanting to be fast and be expedient, and we often need posts/ reminders like yours to bring us back to the basics of being decent human beings as we do it. You are so right that we can't pick and choose: we need to share our good intent in every interaction we have. And as you pointed out, being considerate to others has some pretty great rewards. Recently I started my own business after having a high-profile corporate position, and time after time this has been my experience: the relationships I'd been careful to cultivate have remained strong and meaningful, rewarding me with substantial dividends. In today's business world, I am convinced that investing in your relationships translate to very tangible assets - and your emotional good health.

  • Halley Suitt

    Hi Robert, Hi Marko = You guys are so great -- who wouldn't want to talk to you?! Thanks for this great post. Halley

  • Marko

    I do the same actually, I just like to interact with people. But, only now I realize the power of networking. I am part the Orkut network, probably soon of the Ryze business network. But, nothing compares to a nice face to face chat.

    Ciao
    Marko