In a fast-paced world where today’s partnership is tomorrow’s downsizing, how do you maintain your networking prowess? The short answer is to forget the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff.” This may be true in certain contexts, but networking is not one of them. When everyone and his mother is promising you the moon, you trust those who remember the little nuances and details – and who comes through on them.
What types of small things matter? Think about what matters to you. One of the smaller details that always matters is birthdays. Your partners’ lives are just as busy as yours. In the daily bump and grind of conferences, trade shows, stockholder conventions and business trips, even the mightiest producers can be worn down. Consequently, occasions like birthdays are seen as a rare opportunity to relax and take stock of one’s place in the world. If you remember to send over a bottle of champagne or even simple a happy birthday phone call, you will likely be held in high regard by your partner.
Better yet, go the extra mile. If the partner in question lives nearby or will be in town, make a point of taking him or her out to dinner for special occasions like this. Things like this become cemented in our minds as signs of loyalty and good will.
The same holds true for major anniversaries. If you have been partnered with someone for many years, you probably know important anniversaries of theirs – their marriage, the day their company went public, even the first deal you two consummated. These are days of triumph and celebration, as well. It is gracious and appropriate to extend well wishes or even gifts like champagne or tickets to sporting events in recognition of anniversaries. Little things like this show that your partnership transcends the pursuit of profit and encompasses the good will between you.
Of course, the little everyday things matter as well. Remembering the names of a partner’s child, spouse, or even pets can go a long way toward showing that you value them. When you think about it, this is common sense. You would begin to question someone’s authenticity if you had to tell them your kids’ names a dozen times too, wouldn’t you?
You can also look to things outside of work to strengthen your networking acumen. The easiest example of this is the throngs of businessmen who hash things out on the golf course instead of in the board room. There is just something about an informal setting that fosters a sense of trust between partners. For this reason, create such settings often. Whether it’s golf, sporting events, concerts, or anything else the two of you deem enjoyable, such activities will add a new dimension to your partnership that a cutthroat, fly-by-night competitor won’t be able to outdo.
Another way that the little things matter is when it comes to deadlines and obligations. These are the heart of any partnership, since you are presumably partnering to benefit from each other’s skills and experiences. The best advice is also the simplest: be a man or woman of your word. If you promise a partner that you will have a report ready by a certain day, see to it that you do. If you can, strive to exceed your deadlines. This creates an image of you in the partner’s mind as someone who can be trusted under any circumstances. And, like bad images, these are very difficult to dislodge once they take root. You will benefit from this perception of trust and reliability time and time again.
Finally, it must be said: for all of these things to work and truly be effective, you must be sincere about them. In other words, don’t feign concern, care, or respect for your partners if you don’t actually feel it. Harvard Business School graduate John T. Reed offers an example of what not to do in his review of Robert Kiyosaki’s book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”
“On page 154, Kiyosaki says “the reason you want to have rich friends” is to get inside stock market information that you can make low-risk profits. He ends that discussion with the sentence, “That is what friends are for.” That is the narrowest, most mercenary definition of friendship I have ever seen. I doubt Kiyosaki is the only person who feels this way about his friends, but he may be the only one dumb enough to say it in a book.”
Obviously, this is not the reason you want to have friends or partners. You should feel a genuine sense of trust, respect, and good will toward any business partner that you have. If you do not, the tactics in this article will lose their status as friendly gestures and become mere brown nosing.
However, assuming that you and your partner have an authentic relationship, you will do wonders for yourself to keep the small things in mind!
Eric Corl is the Founder and CEO of IdeaBuyer.com, the online marketplace for intellectual property that gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. You can email him at EricCorl@IdeaBuyer.com.