It should come as no surprise to readers of Business in Greater Gainesville that communication is a center point of business with stakeholders both inside and outside of a company. For example, see “Listen As If Your Business Depends On It, Because It Does.” 1 (But, always be careful of the risks created by communication gone awry, as explained in Someone is Always Watching 2 these articles are, after all, written by a lawyer.)
So, we have now established that it is important to communicate. Good! Now to the “with whom should we communicate” question. For this piece, we are going to isolate the discussion to “outsiders” such as prospects, customers (new and “be backs”), vendors, regulators and even potential employees.
To summarize from “Business Collaboration is a Skill…With Implications. Good Ones.,” 3 which was previously in this series, there are six basic steps to effective business communications.
1) Create opportunities to meet
2) Take time to share by discussing areas of commonality and differences with existing and new partners
4) Close by actually working together
5) Monitor and evaluate the results
6) Do all of this every day and forever
The list above is built around a circle of friends analogy. Go back over the list and note that those measures are what we do every day in our personal lives. We meet new people in a variety of settings. We share thoughts that are common or disparate and actually do so quite naturally without giving that activity a second thought. We contribute to other people’s lives by actions as simple as forwarding a recipe 4 or as complex as making personal introductions.5
We close by actually getting together, such as by going out on a date to begin a romantic relationship. We observe the effect of what we say on other people and self-edit as needed, and we do both of those things constantly and proactively.6 And, we do all of those actions in an always on basis. How did you meet your BFF, your love interest or your posse? By doing those six things quite naturally and comfortably (for the most part).
A critical note. The list above is intended for sincere, mutually beneficial communications. It is not directed toward users who move only on a one-way street that is, toward themselves.
What is the net effect of engaging in those communication steps in business? In brief, it should be the creation of constellations of known and unknown contacts and then relationships. When you interact with a new person, you become exposed to a second-level constellation of other people, and then to a third level, and so on and so forth.
If you have a LinkedIn account, you see a graphic depiction of how this works when the platform shows the level where a prospective new connection is as compared to an existing one. Understanding the arithmetic that there is a finite set of people in the world, the number of possible contacts from just a single new personal connection is as open-ended as the number of people in that single constellation. And, of course, people have more than one existing personal contact, so they also have multiple possible constellations of new connections.
Think back to the 1982 Faberge Organics shampoo advertisement, 7 or, if preferred, to the “spoof” of that same advertisement in “Wayne’s World” 8. Heather Locklear mentions that she tells one friend about the shampoo and the screen then splits into two Heathers, who tell two more friends four Heathers ad infinitum. So, the screen ends up looking like a blown-up version of the opening of “The Brady Bunch” or “The Hollywood Squares.”
Reduce this all to one common place word: networking.
Now, let us convert the six steps to the business marketplace. No need to repeat the list above. Business people are (or should learn –through ongoing practice– to be) accustomed to networking.
What are the potential commercial benefits of intentionally developing one’s business network? If you earn a reputation for being proactive and for delivering on your promises over time, people may well come to you for:
1) Advice –Asked to be on a board of directors
2) Technical assistance– Offered consulting opportunities
3) To come out and play– That is, become involved in something unexpected
And, like in “Candid Camera” 9 or “Punk’d” 10 people will do this when least expected. In fact, you cannot predict how or when you will be approached by contacts from your network with ideas, so business professionals must be ready at a moment’s notice to respond and act.
It seems, then, that it is time to go out and buy a new “Rolodex” for the constellations of new business relationships developed through regular shampooing. Get going then and lather, rinse, repeat.”
Philip N. Kabler is an Incubator Resource for the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED) and has taught various courses at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and at the UF Warrington College of Business (undergraduate and graduate). Kabler is a partner at Bogin, Munns & Munns, P.A. He is also a member of The Florida Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee and the immediate past president of the North Florida Association of Real Estate Attorneys. And, he is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management.