As you know I am an HR consultant. I specialize in helping small businesses deal with the highly complex area of employment law regulations they have to deal with on a daily basis. They do this without having anyone on staff really trained in this area. I say this to illustrate that my business is not one that lends itself to the standard networking groups where you exchange business cards in a 30 second flurry. My friend Bill Ramsey has coined the term “norgy” to describe this orgiastic exchange of business cards and brief descriptions with the hope of someone understanding your business and thus producing referrals for business. For what I do this does not work, rather I focus on my relationship investment.
Tom Peters, in his book The Little BIG Things 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence, says that much of excellence is about connections and relationships. He says “It’s always about relationship. Always was. Always will be. Only connect.” To him the only ROI, or return on investment, that really matters is the ROIR or the Return on Investment in Relationships. He said it is actually easier to measure ROIR than the financial ROI. You can lie easier with numbers. It is very tough to lie about the nature of a relationship. He said that when he was at McKinsey the senior partners measured junior partners on the quality of their client relationships.
I had long given up on “norgies”. No quality relationships coming from them. Then I discovered the group to which I now belong, Speakeasy. It is founded on the principal that mirrors a quote from Peters “The essence of effective business is effective relationships.” We meet once a month and spend time in conversation, getting to know each other, generally over an adult beverage and a cigar. (BTW, this is not required and it does not make it an all-male domain.) In this conversational mode we get an opportunity to get to learn about each other and you get beyond the 30-second elevator speech. It is frowned upon by the organizer, Chad Massaker, if you start a conversation with an exchange of business cards. The group focuses on business to business decision makers and quality exchanges of information.
Despite the fact that I have been to meetings for two and half years I have yet to have a full conversation with everyone, but with the ones I have strong relationships have developed. I measure this by more than the business we have referred to each other, but also by the friendships we have developed that extend beyond the meetings.
What have you done to improve your R.O.I.R?
In my particular case I have also developed relationship through the social media world and by getting involved with my local SHRM chapter, SHRM Atlanta. Through the power of social media today, bolstered by actually meeting people in real life, many of my friends have made substantial career moves. They have had a very nice return on their relationship investment. What about you? What have you done to foster closer relationships with fellow professionals, co-workers, customers and friends?
I think it is all summed up by the sentence (which I am sure I heard somewhere before) “It is not how many people you touch, it is all about how you touch people.”
Think about. Then do something about it if you are not happy with your return on relationship investment.