It’s not always clear how best an entrepreneur can get ahead, especially in the D.C. region, but having a large group of friends can always help. To understand more about how cooperation and helping each other can help entrepreneurs in similar networks reach more success, we spoke with Zvi Band, author of the new book Success is in Your Sphere.
ABERMAN: Tell us a bit about the book. What is it about bringing strategy to relationships? Is that not counter intuitive? I mean, strategy, relationships, how do they work together?
BAND: Let’s face it. People do business with people they know, and as humans, we’re wired to rely on social connections in order to figure out who to work, with who to trust, how to not get eaten. The problem is, humans can only track around 150 people in their head. That’s Dunbar’s number. So when it comes to nowadays, when we can work with anyone around the world, but anyone around the world can work with anyone around the world, we need to be much more intentional about staying in touch with the people that we care about. Like, take LinkedIn for example.
I hate to say, but go on LinkedIn, and you know, pull up any random contact, and if they reached out and asked you for 20 dollars, would you lend it to them? And more importantly, if you were in a time where you needed twenty dollars from them, would they? And so, that’s why I think we need to be much more strategic around staying in touch with the relationships that are going to be critical for our business or our career.
ABERMAN: It’s interesting to me, because you mentioned LinkedIn. I’m a target for a lot of LinkedIn requests, and the way I manage it is, unless I have had some sort of relationship with you in the physical world, I don’t accept. But a lot of people seem to think that online, we should just connect with people, and it becomes burdensome. You can never possibly keep up. So, how do you make sure you’re in that top hundred and fifty people for someone without it appearing like you’re a stalker, or somehow asking for things when you’re not? How do you manage that?
BAND: You’re right. I mean nowadays, we’re almost geared towards going a mile wide, and an inch deep. You’re having thousands of connections, but not really knowing any of them really well. And so I think once you’ve identified a certain set of relationships or certain people that you do want to stay in touch with, we tend to think it’s all about following up and bugging them, and staying in touch, and staying top of mind. But in truth, what we want to make sure is we want to build a relationship that goes beyond that transaction. We want to build friendships. We want to build allies. For customers, it means it’s not just making sure that they renew, but making sure that their business is successful, and identifying other areas we can help. If it’s with professionals that we’re working with, it’s understanding their goals and maybe making connection. So, it’s really all about adding value to those relationships to stay top of mind.
ABERMAN: You know, I think that’s key. I’ll tell you that for me, the filter that I always use is, somebody comes inbound who I don’t know. First of all, I don’t know them, I’m probably not going to engage, unless they come through a trusted referral source of some sort to help legitimize them. But if somebody comes in and says hey, I want to pick your brain, what’s in it for me? I’m sure you’d like to pick my brain, pick away, but I’m sorry, I’ve other things to do. Come inbound with something that is mutually valuable, otherwise, why spend the time? So how does somebody, in a non-forced way, get into a relationship with somebody from a standing start, and establish this value creation that can lead to a lasting long term customer or professional relationship?
BAND: You mentioned one of the key things there, which is to find a mutual connection, or find some kind of social proof between the two. I mean, once you’ve identified certain relationships that you want to be staying engaged with, intelligence becomes really important. And that’s not just you know, doing your online research, but is when you connect them, or you meet with them for coffee or something like that. You find that most people are pretty open these days, when it comes to grabbing coffee and picking their brain. But remembering those small little things, remembering about their kids, remembering about their goals for the year, or remembering what their business issues are, and trying to find ways to solve that.
At the end of the day, there’s also nothing wrong with just showing that you care about someone, showing that they stay top of mind. So yeah, if I reach out to you, Jonathan, saying hey, I really loved your last episode, this was a really great topic. I’d love to introduce you to a few other guests I think would be great, they’re great entrepreneurs, that most people don’t know about. You’d probably go, oh, okay, I’ll bite. I’d love to hear a little bit more. This person is demonstrating that they care about me, that they’re not trying to get something out of me.
ABERMAN: It’s amazing to me how easy it is to try to separate the people who truly want a relationship with people who just want a transaction, because people who want a transaction, they don’t want to waste their time.
BAND: Yep. And I hate to say, the best business development people in the world, especially many here in Washington, know that you don’t approach someone trying to squeeze a transaction out of them. You’re trying to build a relationship. So when the moment arises when there is that transaction opportunity, when there is something you need, they’re ready to act on it.
ABERMAN: I think that’s right. Before we close up today, you recently successfully sold your business, and it’s always a great thing when an entrepreneur gets to the exit. Can you give our listeners some advice for how to emulate your success?
BAND: Yeah, absolutely. Anyone getting to some level of success can always pontificate about all the great things that they should do, et cetera. And you know, many failed entrepreneurs would sometimes say the same thing. I do think at the end of the day, one of the things that was most critical for us, with Contaction, our successful acquisition, is from day one, we developed a bias for action. Which meant that, no matter how much adversity, no matter how much failure we encountered, even if I’d gotten rejected from four investors over the course of a 24 hour period, I’d still wake up the next morning and go pitch the fifth. So I think that was critical for us, and I always noticed that our team, even if it felt like it wasn’t the right decision that we’re making, we made the decision and we moved on.
ABERMAN: Relentless execution, sounds like. Is success different from what you thought it was going to be when you started your journey?
BAND: I wish I’d paid a little bit more attention to other entrepreneurs who’ve achieved some kind of exit. You and I have heard this a lot, that the value or the joy or the pleasure is in the journey, not the outcome? Sure enough, I sat the moment the deal signed, there was an email that was CC’d to 20 different lawyers and bankers, all these different people involved, and I was like, okay is that it? What’s next? Luckily, I’ve got a number of exciting things moving on, the acquired company, the book, but truly, it kind of helped me reflect that the amazing part about this experience for the past 7 and a half years was the 7 and a half years, and not the end state.
ABERMAN: Which again, is why I tend to see entrepreneurs be serial entrepreneurs. We just can’t stop, can we?
BAND: Oh no, I’m screwed. I’m sorry for my wife and family, but I’m going on doing this again.
ABERMAN: And we’ll be watching and hoping for the best for you, Zvi. In the meantime, it’s great you’ve written this book, and all the entrepreneurs in town really benefit from it, so thanks for joining us today.
BAND: My pleasure.
ABERMAN: So, check out Zvi’s new book, Success is in Your Sphere.