It’s easy to get caught up in the grind of the 9-5. Catch the same train to work every day. Sit in the same seat. Have coffee at the same time. Buy your sandwich at the same place. Read the same newspaper. Deal with the same customers, suppliers and advisors. Talk to the same people about the same things. And expect that nothing will ever change. It’s comfortable, predictable and familiar and it works fine until something unanticipated happens.
A guy I know fell into this trap. He was cruising along well until the GFC hit and he unexpectedly lost his job. Many of his colleagues met a similar fate. Cast adrift, he realized that his contact base was small and that the industry he operated in had shrunk to less than half its former size. Stuck with a large mortgage and high living expenses he started calling recruiters, sent out hundreds of linked-in invitations and contacted old colleagues he hadn’t spoken to for years. This went on endlessly until he finally got a job a year later. It was tough to watch.
In hindsight he admitted he should have been more proactive when things were going well. With the share market roaring along for most of the decade of the 2000’s he had convinced himself that the party would continue forever. He got lazy. He made no effort to make new connections, expand his sphere of influence or learn new skills. He was blinded by the money he making and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see the cliff approaching. He was playing a short game when you needed to play long.
The same applies for businesses. It’s easy to show up, do your thing every day and go home. It’s a nice life until it ends. And it always ends.
I’ve learnt that lesson the hard way. Subsequently, whenever I get involved in a new business I make it a rule that I meet 2 new people every week for the first six months. That’s 52 new people. And I would have lunch (or at the very least coffee) with at least one of them every week. That’s a lot of people and it’s hard to maintain especially when things heat up. But the effort is worth up. Even now when things slow down for me I go back to this rule. Within 3-4 weeks momentum starts to build and I’m off and running again.
It’s naïve, however, to think that just by meeting a bunch of new people that your fortunes will improve. This is rarely the case. The people that you meet are busy too and you can’t expect them to solve your problems or to automatically invite you into their “successful” world. You have to earn that right. And you do that by helping them too. Introduce them to an acquaintance that might be interesting or alert them to something happening in the market that they didn’t know about or assist them in some other way. Don’t expect anything back. Relationships take time to build and the good people in business will remember your help when an opportunity comes their way that suits you. This might take months, years or even a decade or two so it’s important that your contact base is constantly being expanded, refreshed and worked on.
Don’t be disappointed if some connections don’t develop or stick. Some people won’t be a good match and some aren’t worth worrying about. Others might be a slow burn. Whatever else be nice, genuine, interested and engaged in the relationships you form. People are more likely to do business with (or help) people that they like.
Like anything worthwhile building deep, valuable and enduring connections takes effort and time. It’s important to nurture them and develop them so don’t take them for granted. The great ones are like old friends – hard to find and difficult to replace. So, how connected are you?