This interview originally appeared on my other blog
Today I have the great pleasure of speaking with Keith Ferrazzi, best selling author of Never Eat Alone (and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationships at a Time). Keith’s ideas have shaped the way I’ve gone about building relationships in my community. In business, your network is your net worth, and Keith is the leading expert on building a powerful network that helps everyone it touches.
Benjamin Bach: How did you get started in business?
Keith Ferrazzi: To get my very first job out of college, I had to convince someone to take a chance on me, which, frankly, is what most people have to do. Especially if you have a liberal arts degree. You’re so young and probably don’t have specific training for anything, but if you show someone you can learn quickly, you have a good attitude, and you will work hard to make them more successful, a lot of people will give you a chance.
My job at Deloitte Consulting, which is definitely where my career developed the most in those early years, came from a relationship I had began with the CEO during my summer internship between the two years at Harvard Business School. In Never Eat Alone I talk a lot about how that relationship came about, but the lesson I’d like to leave with you is that when you’re considering jobs anytime, but especially early in your career, make sure you think about the people you want to surround yourself with, and the people who are going to watch out for you and aid your development, just as much or perhaps even more than the job functions itself.
BB: When did you (and what made you) realize that networking and relationships were the most important factor in success?
KF: My dad was teaching me this lesson all the time while I was growing up. Maybe I didn’t realize it all then, but later on I certainly did. Whenever I look back at my successes and failures, they all involve people. People being generous to help me and people caring about me, and I’m so grateful for that. And the times when I fell on my face, it was usually because I didn’t build the genuine relationships I needed or I may have messed up a relationship in some way. If you’ve read Never Eat Alone, no doubt you’ll remember how I ticked off William F. Buckley, Jr., in college. It’s a perfect example of how relationships can also be your downfall if you don’t treat people the right way.
BB : How did this change things for you?
KF : The more I realized that relationships and people are the key to success and more joy in our lives, the more I had hope and confidence that I could achieve anything I set my sights on in this world. Some people struggle because they don’t have the information or advice they need, or they don’t have the motivation they need, or they feel like outsiders to worlds they want to get inside of. Well, once you understand how to connect with people and build real relationships for mutual benefit, you’ll always believe you can reach and connect with the people and resources you need to make your life better. It’s very empowering. People write to me all the time saying that Never Eat Alone has made a lot of things possible for them for the first time in their lives.
BB : In a review of Never Eat Alone I wrote a few months ago, I described it as the ‘definitive guide to Networking 2.0′; can you explain how the Never Eat Alone method differs from the traditional way of networking?
KF :Well, if you’re going to call it Networking 2.0, then it’s because it’s a new take on the concept altogether. I don’t like to use Networking as a verb. When people hear that, they think of the smarmy guy with a martini in one hand and business cards flying out the other, his eyes darting around the room always looking for a bigger fish to fry. No one likes people like that. No one likes Networkers.
I focus on building relationships. Real relationships based on having genuine interest in people, really wanting to understand what drives them and what they need and being extremely generous to make them successful without worrying about yourself.
So there’s that side to it, the mindset of giving without keeping score, not expecting a direct return on your investment, but believing in sort of infinite network that will give you back 10 times what you give others.
Then there’s another part of Never Eat Alone that’s more tactical and process-oriented. To be successful you need to go a few steps beyond just setting goals. You need to say Who can help me achieve those goals? And when you know those names, you can put more focus and effort into starting and building the relationships that will help you reach your dreams.
BB : Can you explain what the Relationship Action Plan is?
KF :I guess I already started to answer that question. A Relationship Action Plan is comprised of four things:
1 – Your goals
2 – The people who can help you reach your goals
3 – If you don’t know those people, how you’ll get in touch with them
4 – What you’ll do to make those people successful
You can do this in a spreadsheet, on a piece of paper, on the back of a napkin, wherever. I think this should become the new To Do list. I keep updating my RAP all the time, and I’m always making new ones for small things here and there. When you start looking at the world with a relationship mindset, you can’t help but make a Relationship Action Plan whenever you want to achieve something.
BB : Where do most people go wrong in their attempts to network?
KF :They try to Network rather than build real relationships. They aren’t purposeful and when it’s an empty attempt to talk to someone new, it’s difficult for both people. I said in Never Eat Alone there’s nothing I dislike more than when people e-mail me and say “Hey, Keith, I like networking too. Let’s meet for coffee sometime.”
I put that in my book, and I still get emails like that. Don’t do that. Building relationships will be much easier for you if you get focused on what you want to do, you have something interesting to say, and you show that you’re trying to make other people successful.
BB : What is the most important thing a young entrepreneur can do right now?
KF :Build the relationships you need before you need them. Go through the process I outlined above. Figure out who you need to spend time with to make your business more successful in the future. The thing that got my consulting firm started was personal relationships. No question. My first clients were people I had gotten to know years before and had invested a lot in them over time to show them I was there to make them successful. Then, when it was time to start my own firm, they were eager to work with me. So build it before you need it. I think Never Eat Alone will help you do that.
BB: Keith, I know our readers will benefit from your ideas and systems. I understand you just released a new tool to help people implement some of this?
KF:Yes, I just released a free online tool called LifeCoach 1.0. It will walk you through the same three steps I use when I advise people one-on-one to get started towards achieving your dreams. Check it out at http://www.keithferrazzi.com/lifecoachtool.
BB: Awesome. Thanks Keith!