The Maraia Minutes


Introduction to Relationships Are Everything!

Volume 12, Issue 4

I once worked with a client who was raised in a military family, an experience that greatly influenced how he interacted with people. Not surprisingly, he was very mission focused: Tell him the objective of his mission, and he'd do anything to achieve it. But he was so focused on the mission that he ran roughshod over people, even those trying to help him. His firm hired me to help him with something more important than just getting the job done: They wanted him to become more relationship-focused.

During one of our early coaching calls, my client spoke in great detail and with pride about his ability to achieve any mission assigned to him. As I listened to his story, an inspired thought came to me. "The relationship is the mission," I told him. This idea stopped him in his tracks and became his rallying cry during our work together.

And that's the same advice I'm giving the reader of this book. The foundation of your professional practice, no matter the mission, should always be relationships. Focus on building strong relationships, and your business will thrive and prosper. Take relationships for granted or, worse, neglect or abuse them and you will work much harder to maintain a profit or keep your practice afloat. There is an equally compelling reason for putting relationships first: The inner rewards and psychic compensation.

By their very nature, professionals tend to emphasize their technical expertise and downplay or neglect the human side of their businesses. Perhaps they produce technically superior work, but too often they leave in their wake broken or brittle relationships. There are plenty of technical superstars who don't have a long list of clients - or co-workers - who want to work with them, simply because they don't give relationships the attention they deserve. And in today's market, you can be the Einstein of your field, but still starve if you fail to put relationships first.

I've made it my mission in life to increase relationship literacy within the business world.

Relationships are everything because they teach us what we need to learn in the classroom of life. I believe that professionals will improve their business if they learn to see the world (and their experiences in it) as a classroom that offers daily lessons. The substance of what is taught in the classroom of life is our relationships, both business and personal. Nevertheless, most of us are reluctant learners. We too often see other people as the problem. If we articulated this reluctance it might be expressed like this: "If only that person would change, then I'd be happy, or successful, or whatever . . . ." The simple truth is that we often discover our own blind spots, shortcomings and character flaws through other people, particularly those who push our buttons.

The natural outcome of all this relationship-building is a robust network. Rainmakers usually possess a large network and go to great lengths to stay connected to it. But they must still do so one relationship at a time. The network you cultivate over the course of your career is like a fingerprint. It's unique to you and it reflects your character. It's so important, that you'll find in this book more than a dozen chapters devoted entirely to how to build and maintain a network.

What if you're behind on building your network? There is an old adage that the best time for planting trees was 20 years ago, and the second-best time is right now. That adage could just as easily apply to networks. If you're behind, there is no better time than now to start building your network. A good place to begin, as you'll learn in Chapter 2, is to start calling on people you truly like and respect - even if they don't hold out a promise of business. Why? Because building a network of people you don't like is drudgery, unsustainable and not worth doing. Building a network of people you do like is a pleasure well worth doing.

About this book

Relationships Are Everything! is an indispensable companion to my first book, Rainmaking Made Simple, which provides a framework for the busy professional who wants less theory and more of a desk reference for the skills needed to build a book of business. Similarly, each chapter in Relationships Are Everything! is deliberately short, providing a checklist for common situations you'll face every day: meeting with a friend (networking at deeper levels), meeting with a partner or co-worker, releasing negative emotions, delegating dull or routine work, speaking at your firm, and developing the next generation of rainmakers. Furthermore, chapters in the skills section of the book provide an easy-to-follow structure for applying each skill that you can put to work immediately.

Everything in this book comes straight out of the thousands of coaching meetings and phone calls I've had with professionals all over the world, conversations that have given me insight into what works and what doesn't. And the structure still allows plenty of room for spontaneity and customization.

Many professionals believe they must act in unseemly or uncomfortable ways to become rainmakers. I vigorously disagree. You can absolutely remain true to yourself and still be great at selling and marketing. In fact, the truer you remain to yourself, the more effective you'll be as a rainmaker. As I frequently remind my clients, become a better friend and you'll become a better rainmaker. I'll never encourage you to do what's far outside your comfort zone. Instead, I want you to look at everything you do - or fail to do - as something that either strengthens or weakens relationships.

I hope you will consult Relationships Are Everything! and Rainmaking Made Simplefrequently throughout your day to strengthen your relationships and build your practice. May the pages become worn and dog-eared from frequent use!

Copyright 2009 Mark M. Maraia Associates