We must see at Laconia a few dozen pitches each week, and what continues to amaze me is the lack of relationship-building skills that so many entrepreneurs seem to have.
While growing up, my parents hammered into me the courteousness and importance of writing thank you notes. During the early days of my career, I was shown how to build a business relationship, and most importantly, how to maintain one. Thank you notes were a cornerstone of relationship maintenance. And this was all before there were emails and texts to make the process so damn fast and easy.
Entrepreneurs work so hard building businesses. They identify opportunities, draft business strategies, hire people, develop technology, raise capital and sell, sell and sell! Yet, through it all, they seem to treat relationship-building like a speed bump on the road to success. It seems most people today do not understand how a simple email can leave a door open for future opportunities that might not seem obvious at the time.
I tell my entrepreneurs, and my three children, to try and do the following as religiously as they can:
- Send an email to the people you have spoken to or met with by the end of that day. If it is a very important meeting go the extra mile and draft a handwritten thank you note. Yes, write an actual paper thank you note! You would be shocked by someone’s reaction when they actually get a hand written thank you note. Talk about going old school and positively differentiating yourself!
- When someone connects you with another person, circle back with them and let them know how the new interaction went. So many times I will connect someone to one of my contacts and then feel like the intro fell into a black hole. Follow up with people who make introductions for you and let them know you met with their contacts and how it went. Then thank them again! A consistent follow-up will more likely encourage additional introductions.
- Keep your contacts updated on your progress. Why keep news to yourself or only for those who tell you what you want to hear? Share good news.
Relationships might begin during an appropriate request, such as when looking for a new job, funding, customer introductions etc., but it is the post initial communication that builds life long relationships.