“If I could buy people at what they think they’re worth, and sell them at their true value, I’d be filthy rich.”
For me, building relationships to me is like investing in a business. You can invest a lot of money for a very small stake in an already successful business, or you can find a business that is undervalued or early stage, and invest a little bit of money for a bigger share. A focus on connecting with big names with give you just a tiny fraction of real estate in their minds and in their hearts, but investing in people early before they 10x and make it big is the better play.
That investment will grow exponentially over time.
So how does one invest in people? In business it’s clear, you invest money and get stake in the business in return. However in relationships the only advice you generally hear is to “be of value” to others. The problem with that advice is that it’s super vague. So here are my six actionable frameworks that you can use to invest in your most important relationships. Regardless which one of these 6 frameworks you decide to leverage, the foundation is always the same… and that foundation is building relationship intelligence.
“Find people who are undervalued, underappreciated, and show great potential, and double down on them. You’ll be glad you did.”
Relationship intelligence is all about capturing the facts, quirks, dreams, aspirations, what they care about, who they care about, what they are good at, what their goals are, and the obstacles that stand in their way… anything and everything that is unique or important to an individual who you’re looking to invest in. Driven by a deep level of caring and curiosity for people, I strive to capture relationship intelligence with every interaction. If I’m engaging with someone who I know is a parent, I’ll always make a point to ask questions about their kids – how many, how old, their names, and so on – and I’ll capture that. If someone in conversation says that they are working on a book, I’ll ask if they have a release date in mind and I’ll capture that. I’ll also leverage social media to dig deeper into their lives, because you can get a lot of great intel from someone’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
If I know someone is about to become a new parent, I’ll make a note in my calendar to reach out to them a few weeks after the baby arrives and see how they’re doing. If I know that a friend has a book coming out, I’ll reach out the week before and ask how I can help support an epic launch.
Think of an investment as any kind of highly personalized touchpoint, outreach, or interaction that communicates to that person that they are valued and appreciated.
Now, the most common type of relationship investment is providing resources that are in some way valuable to that person. This might be offering recommendations, extending your knowledge and expertise, opening up your rolodex and offering contacts that could become connections for that person… or it could even be opening up your pocket book in a traditional sense and offering capital. Ultimately you’re helping them get from where they are, to where they want to go quicker than if they were to do it on their own. You’re helping them overcome the obstacles that stand between them and their goals.
A lot of people use being resourceful as a vehicle to invest in relationships, and it’s effective. I, myself, focus a lot of my time being of value through resources.
The Biggest Fan Philosophy
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Helping them make their way through the world and supporting their success by providing resources is one thing, however nourishing their soul by addressing their feelings and being their biggest fan is another.
Being someone’s biggest fan is all about noticing when someone is vulnerable, and being their greatest cheerleader. And as a side note – I hesitate to use the word greatest, because I don’t want you to think that you need to be over the top with support all the time, because you don’t. Quite simply the way I look at it, the more vulnerable someone is, and the faster you respond, the bigger the investment you’ve been able to make in them and ultimately that relationship. Timing is everything…
The biggest fan philosophy at its core is about addressing someone’s doubts and fears by being their greatest cheerleader. It’s about believing in someone when they may not fully believe in themselves. In order to achieve any level of greatness in life, you need to push outside your comfort zone, and grow at your outer edge. When you expose yourself to the unknown, doubts and fears naturally creep in. I think most people confuse the notion of confidence for courage, and I think there’s an important distinction to be made.
In my experience, one does not lean into the unknown with confidence. Taking this back to entrepreneurship, I can’t think of a single person who launched a new venture that wasn’t terrified on some level. You gain confidence over time by seeing your idea gain traction, by seeing social proof, by sales rolling in… However make no mistake about it, what pushes you outside your comfort zone, what pushes you to grow at your outward edge, is courage. And when someone is demonstrating courage, it’s your opportunity to stand by their side and cheer them on.
Using gifting as a way to invest in a relationship may be a no brainer to some, however the key word to focus on here is thoughtful.
A good gift makes someone feel seen, and a bad gift does the exact opposite. It can create resentment in the relationship. So you’re better off giving no gift, than giving a poor one. Thankfully for you, if you double down on capturing relationship intelligence, thoughtful gift giving ideas will be plentiful and easy to come by. And lucky for you I did a full episode on effective gift giving called, Holiday Gift Giving – 3 reasons you’re doing it wrong.. So if you want to learn how to 10x your gift giving investments and making a lasting impression, go back and check it out.
Let’s say you’re early on in your career, and you’re either strapped for cash, or maybe you simply don’t have a thoughtful gift in mind… Lucky for you, there’s a forth relationship investment tool that you can use called good old fashion gratitude. Coco Chanel said it best when she said ‘The best things in life are free. The second best things are very, very expensive”. William Arthur Ward said “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
I get gifts all the time, and in full transparency, I don’t keep every gift, However I can confidently say that I’ve kept every note. At the end of the day, we all have a yearning to feel appreciated, to feel significant, to feel loved… So many of us are so damn hard and critical of ourselves, that sometimes a well timed note of gratitude to let us know that our work matters, or more importantly, that we matter… Nothing comes close to it. Sending a note of gratitude or a personalized video of appreciation doesn’t cost a dime financially, but yields high returns.
Leverage the Power of the Inner circle
I always say that if you want to care about somebody, care about who they care about.
So if you want to show someone that you care, care about who they themselves care about. Leverage the same investment strategies – resources, biggest fan, gifting, and extend that to their inner circle. The result is that you will make them look like a rockstar. And make no mistake about it, we all have the desire to look good and feel significant in the eyes of those we care about. Whether that be with our assistant, our spouse, our kids, our cause… invest in whoever (or whatever) is dear to them.
Always Follow Up
The sixth and final way that you can invest in relationships is the follow up. Something that doesn’t cost anything financially, but goes a long way. Follow ups are easy yet effective micro investments you can make in your relationships. However similar to gifting, people get this wrong because their follow ups aren’t thoughtful and personalized.
It’s common knowledge that follow ups are important, however the majority of follow ups are stale and oftentimes bothersome. To most, it’s simply something to check off the to do list.
When it comes to follow ups, context matters, as does personalization. A friend of mine positioned it to me as treating an email (or a follow up for that matter) as a phone call. You wouldn’t call someone you don’t know that well mid day and say “Hey there! What are you working on?”. You would ask better questions, questions that are more personal and relevant to who they are and where they’re at in life and business. So let that be your filter, make your follow ups matter. Have them revolve around the relationship intelligence you’ve collected. If someone is becoming a first time dad in 3 weeks. Set a reminder to send an email 6 weeks from now seeing how fatherhood is treating him. If someone has a big speaking engagement in June, send them a text the morning of to wish them luck! If someone is launching a book, or new product, check in with ideas of how you may be able to support with resources or connections. That’s how you leverage follow ups to foster and nurture long lasting relationships.
All six of these strategies are fantastic ways to invest in your most important relationships.
And the ROI on those investments, when done right, are exponential…