COMPANY:Marie Forleo International
2014 INC. 5000 RANK: 472
HEADQUARTERS: New York City, NY
YEAR FOUNDED: 2009
2013 REVENUE: $11.9 million
Gallup says relationship builders have high social awareness, develop mutually beneficial relationships and use them to access internal and external resources, and have open demeanors and positive attitudes.
Marie Forleo worked her way through college doing one of the most people-person jobs imaginable. She was a bartender, chatting cheerfully with her customers while pouring wine or brewing cappuccinos. Then one day a woman said to her, "You are so great. What do you want to do?"
"I want to work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange," Forleo told her. Turned out the woman's brother-in-law worked there: She asked Forleo for her resume. That's how Forleo landed her first post-college job--and began a lifetime of building and benefiting from relationships.
Forleo didn't care for Wall Street. Her next job, in magazine publishing, didn't satisfy her either. Life-coaching had recently emerged as a career, and Forleo liked the sound of that. So she took a course online to learn the skills and started her own newsletter. On the side, she went back to bartending and also taught fitness and dance classes. Most of her first newsletter subscribers and coaching clients came from friendships she struck up in the restaurant and in the studio.
Today, Forleo meets thousands of people through her business, New York City-based Marie Forleo International, which offers entrepreneurship and personal-development programs online. Ninety-nine percent of her employees are people she had met and hit it off with long before knowing she'd have a job to fill. "If someone has got star quality in some way, I make no bones about reaching out and saying, 'I don't know how, but we are going to work together,'" says Forleo. That's how she met the editor for her online program, Marie TV. "She had written me a tweet, and the kindness of how she worded it caused me to look her up and say, 'I don't know who you are, but I want to take you to lunch,'" says Forleo.
Forleo is forever introducing people to others who might help them, and being introduced in turn. Her relationships have won her invitations to appear with Oprah Winfrey and Anthony Robbins on their programs. She stays in touch with Oprah's team by offering help with digital marketing. Her philanthropic work garnered an invitation to travel to South Africa with Richard Branson. In fact, Branson took the time to introduce Forleo to a woman he thought could help her professionally.
In terms of relationships, Forleo comes down hard on the side of quality over quantity. "To me, the word 'networking' sounds calculating and manipulative," she says. "I love people. I love hearing their stories. I do my best to be open and transparent about my flaws and insecurities. People are comfortable with me because I'm not trying to be something other than I am.
"Every relationship that has helped me is the result of a from-the-heart, honest connection with someone I know and like," says Forleo. "That's where all the good things in life come from."