Search
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

It's All About Relationships

by Shel Horowitz

How many people are in your "Golden Rolodex"? David Rockefeller kept track of 150,000 people, on note cards. When he met with someone, he knew all the right questions to build the relationship.

Ronna Lichtenberg, president and owner of the management consulting firm Clear Peak Communications and owner of http://www.askronna.com, shared with FBC members at the May meeting the nine principles of business success she outlines in her new book, "It's Not Business, It's Personal":

  1. "It pays to be personal." The genuine personal touch sets you apart from the crowd. What did
    David Rockefeller do with all those note cards? "His ability to get people to do something
    philanthropic or for his business, depended on his ability to say, 'Jennifer must have gotten out of
    her braces by now.'"
  2. "Observe the new rules of the role." Just because someone has been cast in one way doesn't
    mean you have to follow that characterization. When Lichtenberg was a guest on Mike Wallace,
    defending her then-employer, she chose not to see him as "enemy" but as "Uncle Mike" - and
    this enabled her to maintain control of a difficult interview.
  3. "Be fluent in both pink and blue." And recognize that these characterizations cross actual
    gender lines. President Clinton was "pink" enough to compliment a woman on her shoes - and
    Lichtenberg knows a very "blue" female spa owner, completely task-focused.
  4. Look for value in the most important relationships: those who can mentor you as part of your
    "personal Board of Directors." Seek people of quality by watching how they treat those with low
    status. "If you see someone being mean to a waiter or a nanny or the person cleaning the
    bathroom, you don't want them on your Board."
  5. "Diversify your portfolio" of trusted associates. "Get close to someone whose taste in music
    makes you want to throw up."
  6. Avoid "energy vampires" who suck you dry but give little in return.
  7. Build relationships every day. Lichtenberg has a client who "uses the three-touch system.
    Every day, she has to be in touch with a client, a prospect, and a friend" - preferably in person,
    or at least by phone. Lichtenberg finds e-mail too impersonal, for building relationships and says
    that e-mail can actually be a threat to relationship building, for example, when you inadvertently
    send it to the wrong person.
  8. "Give yourself time to win." That means finding time to spend with those who are important to
    you. Women may begrudge the time businessmen devote to golf, but some sort of personal
    interaction time must be built in - whether on the golf course or elsewhere.
  9. Show that you care about the relationship, even during a transactional encounter. For
    instance, if a new supplier gives you a low bid, go back to your old supplier and politely ask for a
    better price. And if the existing supplier can't come close, go with the other supplier in a way that
    allows you to still come back next time. "The angrier you are, the more important it is to close the
    door in a way that you can open it again." Sometimes, that means differentiating between
    business and personal relationships with the same person: a dichotomy that comes up especially
    often in a family business.

Back to Top