Monday, January 17, 2011

Relationships Matter

This is the tenth and final blog post regarding the 10 Things I Accidentally Learned on the Path to Growth. I saved the biggest and best until last. There is no question that the single biggest thing I have learned in how to grow a business comes down to this: it is all about relationships. There is no other single factor that comes anywhere close to driving growth as this one - a firm understanding and competency in creating, maintaining and growing relationships. From these interactions all sorts of powerful things happen. There are relationships needed in many areas - with your team, your vendors, your distribution partners, your customers, your strategic partners, media and PR folks and on the list goes. If you want to truly grow your company, or you life for that matter, you have to get this part right!

Relationships for me all started with and continue heavily to focus around community. First Ingram's VTN, now HTG - but meeting with like minded folks is so very important. There is so much to learn from others in the industry, but in order to do that you have to spend time together. So being part of community is a critical component to the relationship area. What groups are you part of? For me:

•Community has provided perspective
Without it you don’t know what “good” is
•Community has provided relationships
With distribution, vendors, peers, subject matter experts and media
•Community has provided guidance
Without it the ability to stay relevant is more difficult
•Community has provided growth
6 M&A’s resulted from the relationships in communities
•Community has provided success
Without it we would still be a little technology company in the middle of a cornfield

Power of Peers
The bottom line is that there is extreme power when you become intimate with a set of peers. Here are some of the foundational things that define HTG:

•We engage other companies in the channel
•We share and give openly
•We ask for help when we need it
•We share our financials openly
•We plan together around business and life
•We execute together
•We are accountable

Not only do you learn from others, but as community goes deep, relationships become so much more. It quickly gets down to accountability and life and making sure we are doing what we intend. That is the power of true relationship - it causes us to be more than we were without it.

From where I sit

I have been blessed to be part of this industry for the last 25 years. Lots of things have happened during that time. The Internet has become main stream. Cell phones went from small suitcases to the palm of your hand. Portable pc's went from 40 pound luggables down to a few pounds. Change happens - it has been but even bigger change is coming….

The rate will accelerate as we move more and more to the cloud. And how IT impacts businesses will continue to morph and become more deeply integrated. However there remains one constant…and that is the fact that people are still at the end of the wire running things.

At the end of the day

We are in the people business. That is what we do. We sell technology and services but our job is really managing change and helping those we serve adapt to it. It won't be easy. All of us resist change at some level. But to truly have a handle on relationship we have to realize our opportunity to help people handle change. There are lots of places for us to do that:

•In our business
•For our customers
•With our employees

Our success will be directly tied to how well we help people adapt to change. It really is that simple. Relationship will always win over technology because it is about people, not the bits and bytes. We must never lose sight of that fact.

The final reality and lesson is this: PEOPLE ARE THE ONLY THING THAT TRULY MATTERS. If you get this one thing right - most everything else takes care of itself. That means knowing how to build and maintain relationships. It is THE most important thing!

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