Last week, my partner and I decided that we need to take professional photos for our website.
Two days later, I joined the first karate exam of my 5-year old sister. As it was a special occasion, the club hired a photographer. During a break, my mum introduced me to her because they already knew each other from previous events.
It turned out that she moved to the city only a few months ago and was about to start a photography business soon.
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She told me that she wants to picture events and families and I offered to connect her with some event organizers in the city. And I also told her that I’m looking for a photographer to take pictures for my website.
She immediately offered to take some pictures of my partner and me for free.
Even though I told her that we’d be happy to pay her, she insisted on doing it for free if she could use the images in her portfolio.
So we exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet for a coffee to discuss the details of the photo shooting.
After our conversation, she told my mum how happy she was about meeting me. Back at home, I told my partner how glad I was about meeting her.
Relationships Can Be the Secret Sauce
Even though I’m not an introvert, I never enjoyed asking people for help.
Independence is one of my core values and for a long time, I believed that asking someone for help would equal dependency. Yet, I was wrong.
Today, having a supportive social circle, being well-connected, and asking people for help is the greatest accelerator for my success, happiness, and wellbeing.
When my partner and I started our business, our first significant revenue was the result of an existing relationship.
Three years ago, my partner coincidently met the major of his home town whom he already knew for a long time. He told him that we were hosting personal development workshops for students and asked if we could also do some seminars in his home town.
After a week, we sent a proposal for the project. Six months later, we hosted three workshops and charged $10,000.
Back then, our business was a side hustle besides our studies and $10,000 was a lot of money for doing what we loved.
And it was only possible because we knew someone who recommended us to the right people.
It would have taken us months, if not years, to sell our program to companies because we lacked credibility and experience.
It’s hard to convince corporates that two 20-somethings could make a change in their company. But it was quite easy for my partner to convince the major because they already knew each other.
And as he trusted my partner, the major connected us with businesses that were willing to pay for our service.
In the end, we did a great job, got paid well, and had happy clients who later hired us for additional projects.
Win-Win, once again.
Give And Take
The best relationships are based on give-and-take.
People often confuse business relationships with a free source of information or service.
Just because you know someone doesn’t mean you can expect them to do something for free.
Being well-connected is not about saving money but rather about saving time and energy.
Let’s say you need a logo for your new business: You can hire a random company or freelancer, or you can ask someone you already know and pay them accordingly.
The result might be the same, but in the second case, you’ll strengthen a relationship that might lead to unexpected opportunities in the future.
In fact, it’s quite rude to expect someone to work for you for free unless you do the same for them.
It’s easy to offer help for free if you’re employed or running a multi-million dollar company. But if you’re a freelancer, consultant, or running a small business, your time equals your income. And it’s pretty ignorant to ask someone to work for you without charging for the service.
Good advice is worth money, regardless of the relationship.
If you don’t want to pay for services, your customers won’t want to pay you either.
Give and you’ll receive.
Be disrespectful and you’ll attract disrespectful clients.
And no, you can’t expect a free consultation in exchange for a cup of coffee.
Six Degrees of Separation
According to the Six Degrees of Separation, everyone and everything on our planet is six or fewer steps away from each other.
In 2011, Facebook and the University of Milan analyzed 72 million active users and 69 billion friendships for a month. The study showed that the number of degrees is now even as small as four.
99.6% of all Facebook profiles were connected by paths within five degrees and 92% were connected by only four degrees.
In 2011, the average distance between all people on Facebook was 4.74 steps.
In 2016, the number of steps decreased to only 3.57.
No matter if it’s 3, 6, or 9 steps, what matters is that the path is now shorter than ever before. And you can use that incredible power to your advantage to build a successful business.
Who Instead of How
One of the most profound business tips I ever received is to replace how by who.
Whenever we’re stuck in business or want to optimize a process, we usually ask ourselves how to do something. Yet, these big questions often lead to procrastination instead of action.
Finding an answer to the how is time-intensive and sometimes even frustrating.
Instead, ask yourself if you know someone who could help you solve that problem.
If you’re about to hire your first employee, ask someone who already has employees.
If you need to create a website, ask a friend who has done it before.
If you need an accountant, ask another business owner.
Remind yourself of the six steps of separation: Data proves that six handshakes can connect you to anyone on the planet.
No matter what kind of struggle you face, there’s likely someone who already solved a similar challenge. And the odds are high that they might be able to help you.
It’s easier than ever to connect with people who might be able to solve your greatest problems. Use that power to your advantage.
You’re Always Talking to One Single Person
Another major lesson about business relationships I didn’t understand for a long time is that you’re always talking to a human being, no matter what their position within a company is.
A human relationship is always based on two individuals; no matter if it’s your mum, a friend, or a CEO.
We all have dreams and fears, regardless of our jobs, positions, and income levels.
If you talk to people as humans, they’ll respond as a human being instead of dressing up in a formal position.
The moment you understand that you’re talking to an individual instead of the representative of a company, you can build deep, human relationships and get what you want.
Instead of talking to a CTO, CMO, or whatsoever, speak to an individual and let them know that you care about them as a human being, not about their position.
Take notes of their favorite drinks, the names of their kids, partners, or pets, and charm your fellows by paying attention to the little things that matter on a personal level.
Human connections matter to all of us. And if you manage to build a meaningful relationship, you win. Not only in business but in life.
The easiest way to get what you want is to ask someone who already has it.
But don’t ever expect to pick someone’s brain for free. There’s no such thing as a free consulting service just because you know someone.
You shouldn’t build a network for the sake of saving money. If you do it correctly, you might likely save lots of money, but your primary motivation should be the human potential you see in someone.
Always give before you take and rely on existing relationships to solve your problems.
Instead of defining people by what they do, pay attention to who they are.
You never know which relationship might one day open important doors in your life.
The world is small. And we’re all connected in one way or the other.
We can’t do great things on our own and you’ll never know who might one day help you to achieve your wildest dreams.
In the long run, it always pays off to be kind and nourish your relationships.
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