Building business relationships that last requires a diverse set of skills. Our authors, Karl and Bill, describe how they built their Inc. 500 company by playing off of each other's strengths.
The essence of successful business development can be summarized in four steps:
Meet and connect with motivated business people - executives, entrepreneurs, investors, etc.
Understand their goals and objectives
Look for opportunities within your team or broader network to help them achieve their goals
Partner with them to create value
For our business, this approach is a team sport. As partners, we've always worked better by leveraging each other's distinctive strengths. As Bill mentioned in a recent column, he is an introvert and struggles with traditional, hand-shaking networking events. Karl, on the other hand, needs to be out meeting and talking to people, and sometimes gets bored with day-to-day tasks.
That's why we have a "tee 'em up" and "knock 'em down" partnership, where Karl focuses on bringing new relationships into the fold, and Bill builds a long-lasting partnership.
Our approach-which we also use with the rest of our team-is to focus on our strengths and partner with others who are strong where we are weak. This works well for us, since we are in many ways exact opposites.
The Extrovert's View (Karl):
I think of networking as finding ways to connect people with the things and the people they need to be successful. This is something that Bill does every day with our key clients. His style of networking (as an introvert) is not to go to a cocktail party and meet 20 people. It's to talk with a potential client or investor to understand their needs and motivations. Then you figure out ways to connect them to their success, whether that is a new relationship or a business idea.
I actually enjoy the cocktail party style networking, mostly because I get bored with the conversation after a few minutes and want to move on to another one. I still find it uncomfortable to walk up to someone I have never met, but I think everyone does. That's not really networking, though, because nothing usually comes from exchanging business cards. But there is value in having a conversation about someone's needs and motivations and being creative about how to help them.
I need Bill to engage with individuals around specific ways we can help them achieve their goals. He's better at this action-oriented approach, which creates long-lasting trust.
The Introvert's View (Bill):
I think your definition of networking is right (connecting people to things they need to be successful), but I do better with intense one-on-one networking. Maintaining a large network of relationships and tending it well is something that doesn't come naturally to me, and never will.
You help me when you create an initial connection and are able to:
Frame the person's wants/needs
Provide insight into their character and personality
Identify a potential win-win basis for connection with us
I do well pushing a relationship forward when there's a clear view of an individual's motivations and what we can do to help them achieve their goals.
KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree. @karlstark