To build a successful business make more friends first.

I recently was introduced to the CEO of a really fun business in Milwaukee. A mutual friend introduced us via email. And in the quick hellos and thanks-for-the-introduction exchange that followed the CEO invited me to his office for a pow-wow.

When we met in person a week later we talked and developed a quick friendship. Despite the fact that we had just met it was clear that we were on the same wavelength. Our mutual friend, who I will call Erin, because that is her name, must have detected that too.

The two of us began talking about his business. I loved the conversation. I am a big fan of his company. Like one of those Big Ass Fans you see in a warehouse. I noted the remarkable quality of the product his team creates. I shared my enthusiasm for his brand and the great potential for growth, expansion and domination.

Then something interesting and unexpected happened. The CEO paused and said, ‘Adam, every agency in town has come to me wanting my business. They all talk about what they can do for us. And they share their vision for our brand. But you are the only one who has shared MY vision for the brand.’

At that point the conversation changed from 2 guys getting to know each other to two business leaders collaborating and working through problems and opportunities together. Which is what I love most about business.

I didn’t think of our conversation as a sales call. I didn’t think I was pitching him on working with me and my business. I was just excited to meet a new friend. I’m like a puppy in that way. And in the process of developing a friendship we talked about his business, the same way we talked about his family, the places he has lived and what he likes to do in his free time.

Make Friends. Not Sales.

But sales is not what most people think it is. So much of business development is simply developing friendships and rapport. It is showing a genuine interest in getting to know others. It is about helping and providing value. It is not about asking for business.

I always focus on friendship first. I was genuinely interested in this baller of a CEO first. I was not about to ask for a shot at his business. Perhaps that was part of the appeal.

As the sales expert Jeffry Gitomer says, people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. That is why I always let people buy into me instead of asking for the sale.

Does it work? Well, I now have a meeting scheduled with my new friend and his leadership team next week.

6 Key Takeaways From This Experience

  1. A good introduction from a trusted mutual friend creates a great start to a new relationship.
  2. Make friends. Not sales calls.
  3. Add value first, last, and always.
  4. Think bigger.
  5. Paint a picture others want to buy into.
  6. Let your enthusiasm, energy and passion show.

Follow Up:

Between the time I first wrote this post and published it a lot has happened. We had a great meeting with the executive leadership team. We were asked for a proposal. The proposal was signed last Friday afternoon. We kicked off our official relationship with a 3-hour meeting (Gilligan’s Island-Style) on Monday afternoon. We will present ideas next week. And we will have new ads live for the holidays.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message please share it with them.

When you develop a new business you develop new hope.

I expected that starting my own advertising agency would be hard. I expected long days and late nights. I expected endless challenges. I expected to make mistakes. I expected to forgive myself for not knowing all the things a business owner really should know. I expected to learn and grow along the way. And I expected to use the word expected more than usual in this opening paragraph.

Hard Things Are The Best Things.

I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, in 2016. And all of the things I expected ahead of time have come true. I have no complaints. Because doing great things should be hard. I am not afraid of hard things. They make me feel alive. Where others get anxious, intimidated or nervous, I get excited. It’s a gift. Or maybe there is something wrong with me. Or both.

The Unexpected

But more and more I am noticing something I didn’t anticipate during the pre-launch phase. I am surprised by the number of former coworkers, clients, friends and acquaintances that have come to me hoping, urging, expecting me to build something great that they could be part of too.

There are a significant number of very talented people who have gotten very close to The Weaponry, and put their names on our wait list, preparing for the next opening or opportunity to develop.

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Sarah Disanza created her own opportunity at The Weaponry, worthy of a whole other post. #Prequel

These are smart people with jobs, and freelancers. Recent graduates and pre-retirees. People who are burned out with their current situation, and fed up with their boss. People who want to feel like they are part of a winning and growing team. People who want a little more excitement in their workday. People who believe that The Weaponry offers the type of work experience they are hungry like the wolf for. And I would like to have all of them on our team.

Under Pressure

So the pressure is on to grow this business. To find out just how many people we can accommodate. We need to see how much demand can we generate. While keeping this business as attractive at scale as it is in miniature, and in the collective minds of both our current team members and those who hope to join us next. That’s a good pressure. Like the pressure Queen and David Bowie were under.

Key Takeaway

When you start something new, anything new, you are creating new hope. Hope for a better job, a better experience, a better resource, and ultimately better products and services. All of which ladder up to hope for a better life. If you can make that happen you have done something really special. That’s exactly why I started the The Perfect Agency Project in the first place.