Our days (and especially our routines) offer dozens of built-in opportunities to build your relationships network. From our daily stop at the coffee shop, to our visits to the gym to the parties we attend, we get to know dozens of people…or do we?
Networking for work has never been easier (hello Linkedin), but the people we meet when we’re not “working” tend to be categorized as social rather than business opportunities. Maybe as a reaction to being able to have 500+ connections rather easily, we’ve learned that building actual relationships is more valuable than ever. Every face-to-face encounter is an opportunity to form or build a relationship—a gift in and of itself. As a management consultant, I’ve seen and heard many stories about business that resulted from “social” relationships. Here are some of my favorites.
Dave, a friend of mine is one of the most successful business development executives in the consulting industry. He lives in a Chicago suburb and attended his two daughters’ soccer games during their high school years. Throughout those years, he often sat next to their teammate’s father, who happened to be the CEO of a healthcare company. When that company wanted to improve their performance, he received a call from the CEO.
I worked with a team on a consulting engagement in New York. Midway through that project we learned the client company had been purchased by a company in Chicago. The acquiring company sent a representative to listen to our findings. We were thanked for our efforts and dismissed. Two weeks later our team was asked to present to the buyers in Chicago, one of whom happened to be someone Dave had met at a neighborhood Christmas party. We got the engagement.
Dave is also passionate about airplanes. He holds a private pilot’s license, owns his own plane and is a member of multiple aerospace industry associations. A few years ago, a pilot friend from one of those associations asked Dave to put a team together to help streamline aircraft production. That team delivered a successful project and Dave has since built a healthy aerospace consulting practice.
Dave’s success is well earned and well spent. Anyone who knows him will tell you he and his wife share the fruits of their labor and their gratitude by giving back. When one of his former clients lost his job due to a merger, Dave hired him immediately. He has also served on the board of a start-up company for a new aircraft that is designed for disaster relief, and quietly worked to help them secure additional funding they needed. His genuine interest in other people shows with everyone he meets.
Great networkers like Dave are never really networking—they’re having a conversation. Take a fresh look at all the people you meet. Whether your Lyft driver or barista is building a startup or not, enrich your life and theirs with a conversation. No matter where it leads.
Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based on Amelia Island, Florida and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.