It’s Not ALL About Relationships

by on May 14, 2010 | posted in Marketing

You’ve heard people say it before, and undoubtedly, you believed them. “It’s all about relationships”. Hey, that’s so fun to say! Absolutes are fun, I know, but they’re dangerous.

It’s not ALL about relationships. More importantly, it’s really not ALL about that saying, so stop listening to it.

The Chris Brogan Parable

Imagine a scenario where you’re Chris Brogan. You’ve built a network of 500,000+ people who love you. Suddenly, you get thrown into a movie dream sequence where your brain is wife-swapped with a room-temperature IQ primate from some slum in Detroit.

How long will Brogan’s contacts carry him? Chris will quickly, and vocally, be outted for having jumped the shark. Once he bombs his next few speaking engagements, his reputation will crumble. Videos will hit the internet. 1938 Media will peel into him. He might have a bed to sleep in and a 50kish job for the rest of his life based on name value alone, but his relationships will only take him so far.

YOU Are the Thing That Matters

Our relationships are built on YOU. The skills, the charisma, and the enjoyment YOU bring to the table. Your business contacts and your friends won’t engage with you unless you are seen as a person of value. How this value equation is concocted comes from a multitude of places, and sometimes, much of it comes from the ability to smile brightly and be likeable.

Success Can Come Without Much of a Network

I know you’ve used the internet, though. Many of these “success stories” are social duds, and their Twitter feeds are the text equivalent of nails on chalkboard. In short, they’re annoying. How in the world did they become so popular and rich and networked?

They SUCCEEDED. That was part of their value equation. At some point, their negative quality of being a social idiot was outweighed by the fact that their business network now viewed their success as an overriding factor – yeah, you’re worth a drink and an annoying four hour conversation – as long as you introduce me to that sick affiliate, or the Fortune 500 CEO.

This social pariah got additional benefit from his network, sure, but much of that network built from his personal success, which was built through hard work. Other people leveraged their social skills, and less of their business skills, to reach a similar level.

Those who did both, prospered beyond belief.

The point? Develop your skills. Increase your value, both socially AND in the workplace.  When people say “It’s all about relationships”, they’re implying that you could build an entire empire based on your ability to be social alone. Yes, the relationships do tons for you, but the important thing to grab from this is the viewpoint that the idea of “relationships” is not formulated on your ability to talk to someone and hold a conversation – it’s formed from you being a skilled, valuable person.

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  • David Crandall

    This is a point that a lot of the social media “gurus” seem to step over. You are your own secret weapon; Seth Godin’s Linchpin is a stunning thesis on this concept.

    I think you are correct in that successful people naturally build up networks. It’s part of who they are. People naturally draw close to those who are successful. That may be business or it might be people who are successful in making others feel valued. The best would be a combination of both of those qualities; that’s what I’m striving for.

    • Ross Hudgens

      I think if we look at the statement “Its all about relationships” in one way (that you can parlay your own value into meeting other people to have great things happen), we’re right. The problem is that people misinterpret it and just go to 500 networking events as a entry level employee with no skills and expect magic to happen. It doesn’t work that way.

      You need your skills to parlay into networking success.

  • Raam Dev

    Fantastic points. It’s so easy to jump on the bandwagon that “it’s all about who you know” and forget that who you know won’t matter if you’re of no value to them.

    Building relationships while simultaneously building ourselves (in terms of skills, knowledge, value, etc.) is the best way to grow in a balanced way.

    I think we should primarily focus on ourselves. Relationships with others will naturally develop as others discover the value we have to offer. Of course publicly sharing our value — in the form of blogging, publishing free ebooks, consulting, speaking, etc., — is important for others to discover and want to connect with us.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Love the way you phrased this, and agree – “It’s so easy to jump on the bandwagon that “it’s all about who you know” and forget that who you know won’t matter if you’re of no value to them.”

      I think we should do both, for sure. I see people hit a level of business advancement and then jump deep in the networking pool and stop growing their skills. Their networking carries them for a few years, but when their skills stop producing results, the contacts erode. There has to be a balance there.

  • Hulbert Lee

    Hi Ross, nice post. Although having a social network does build a business, you can’t just rely on being social to make it succeed. Creating value to a social community comes before that in my opinion. That’s why we should spend a large majority of our times working on our skills like you say, whether it’s through writing or some other form of art instead just spending most of our time on social media networks like Digg, Facebook, etc. Relationships are helpful but it’s not all about the relationships. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Ross

      Thanks for the comment Hulbert. There’s definitely a balance, but the implication of the statement is that you should skew way more towards social and networking than is actually necessary. Of course, I have yet to complete the journey, so I could be completely wrong!

  • Ahmad Fadli

    To rephrase it another way “it is not who you know but what you bring to table that matters”.
    After reading this, it reminds me that networking, offline or online is just another form of relationship. Therefore, the fundamental rules of relationship still apply. And one of it is that relationship is a form of value transaction.
    If you want something, you have to give something. It might not be that apparent but the frame and context of give and take still the same.
    Another refreshing post Ross. Thanks!

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