Business Success Requires Investing in Relationships
Throughout my four decades as an entrepreneur, the saying, “It’s not what you know, it's who you know,” has echoed in my ears as a partial truth. However, let me offer you a more complete perspective on this matter.
In my extensive journey, I've come to realize that relationships aren't just a means to an end; they are the essence of our endeavors. The tapestry of life is woven with threads of relationships, connecting us all in intricate ways.
Successful relationships are built upon mutual respect, value, honesty, and open communication. In business, all too often, we spend time transactionally, trying to make the sale, rather than personally trying to make a real connection. Balancing both transactional efficiency and personal connection creates a much stronger foundation for sustained growth.
For my leadership team at the National Academy of Athletics, we have a formula that has a proven track record of helping us remain relevant, relatable, and likable. And let’s be honest: People like to do business with people they like and trust.
For each prospect or account—our term for them is “community partner”—we will have a “touch a week.” Here is how it works. We commit to a call, email, Zoom meeting, face to face or old-fashioned handwritten card in the mail. We don’t bring them a gift, try to sell them anything, or convince them of how great we are. Instead, we check in. We do our best to create a win-win relationship that feels right.
Early in my career, I was heavily influenced by Steven Covey, who taught me, “Seek to understand before being understood.” This philosophy has served me well in business and my personal life. It has helped me to develop relationships that are built upon mutual empathy and appreciation. I have found that people are much more receptive to my point of view once they feel that they have been heard.
It can be challenging to stay connected to our circle of influence in business. Deadlines, commitments, and geographic realities can make something as essential as human contact difficult to achieve. It’s up to us to find meaningful ways to reach out.
My team connects with each community partner on a personal level by getting to know about their goals at work and the pressures they feel from their managers and the community they serve. If they’re willing to share, we also learn about their personal lives. I believe that this is the best way to stay connected.
In essence, the saying, “It's not what you know, it's who you know,” emphasizes the role of networking and relationships in creating opportunities. However, your knowledge, skills, and how you apply them are integral to seizing and capitalizing on those opportunities. It’s the synergy between “what you know” and “who you know” that truly paves the way for lasting success. Recognizing the importance of relationships can lead to a more passionate, connected, and fulfilling life.
Aaron Locks is CEO and founder of the National Academy of Athletics. He has an extensive history of sports administration and instruction. Aaron grew up playing many team sports and as college basketball player he knows how to compete and what it takes to be a winner on and off the field of competition.
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