Make Friends and Business Follows

One of the most truly remarkable business experiences I have ever had was presented to me in the late 1980s. I was invited to participate in a merger and acquisition presentation in New York City. As the deal was broken down into detail, it was clear this would be the financial services blockbuster deal of not just the 80s but perhaps in my adult lifetime.  A large investment banking firm was beginning the “domino effect” of deals that would create an unequaled coalition of financial services, first throughout the United States and perhaps later, globally. The initial domino was to be precipitated by this New York meeting, featuring a partnership between our two Firms.

This was almost like nature building its perfect hornets nest. The Queen seeks out the optimal location where the environment and abundant food supply lays the foundation of an enormous honeycomb of success, and then makes the deal, bringing the swarm with her later.  This first deal brought us to the Queen to see if the nest would be built.

Here we were, in their board room which seemed to encompass half the floor with expanding, humbling views looking over Wall Street, and south over Battery Park into the harbor where the grand lady we call the Statue of Liberty seemed to be waving a welcome smile to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had prepared very carefully. If you travel back in time with me to the 1980’s, remember there is no PowerPoint, no iPad, and certainly no smart phone. Technology was literally a slide projector. With the fan on the projector droning out the silence, all eyes were on our President. Carefully stacked in front of him were 30 to 35 comb bound books. One for each guest. We had flown in more than a dozen of our executives, ready for their pitch. Our hosts, the investment banking firm who sought leadership of this deal, equaled our numbers at this table.

Following the obligatory greetings and introductions, our President began his carefully scripted pitch. We had all heard his speech several times, critiquing each word, each meaning, each smile, and each directive motioning toward the Kodak moment blazed on the screen. After approximately 30 seconds where it was evident we were now ready to talk business, our President was politely interrupted by the lead partner of our host firm.

Excuse me,” he said. “Before you get too far, please pardon my interruption with what I think would be a valuable comment. We are very excited to see the contents of this bound book. We are anxious to hear each of you present your responses to our RFP. However, we have a saying here which goes back to our founding fathers.”

We were amazed at the nerve, at what seemed to be a very impolite interruption. There was a pause for seconds which seemed minutes. The room had been set on its edge. We were invited here and our presentation was interrupted 30 seconds into the opening comments.

Before any of us could speak to this atrocity, our host again spoke. “This firm” he said, “is built on the premise that we make great friends first, and great business will follow.”

Make friends first, and business will follow, I mumbled to myself. What is he talking about? We were already friends. Many of us had worked together preparing for this meeting. Some of us had worked across the table on other deals together. Make friends first? What kind of company is this? We had just spent tens of thousands of dollars in travel expenses for this early-morning meeting, and now it seems to have ended before we finished our coffee, because he wants to make friends instead of focusing on the deal.

The lead partner continued, “now, I know some of us know each other better than others, and some of us have never met before today. I’d like to go off the agenda with a proposal.”

As I looked around the room I realized I was not the only visitor trying to restrain myself. Then he completed his interruption with a simple – “let’s take the next few hours and make friends.”

As he glanced down at his watch, he looked back up at our President who nodded, and as he scanned the entire table, calmly said, “it’s about 9:10, let’s reconvene just after lunch. My friends on this side of the table would love to devote the rest of their morning to meet you and talk about this friendship. So, let’s take a few minutes, pair up, enjoy the morning, and I look forward to our afternoon together.”

With that, the room broke into a somewhat uncomfortable networking session. And as if by magic, everyone found a partner. One by one, as each pair left the room the pitch books remained neatly stacked, and all you could hear in the room was the drone of the slide projector which had never been keyed into action.

 

 

 

 

I was paired with a research analyst. We spent the morning walking most of lower Manhattan. We had coffee, greeted people on the street he knew, and for the most part, just talked about each other. In that morning, we became friends.  In other parts of Manhattan that day, another 10 to 12 pairs of executives looking a little bit odd in their blue suits with starched white shirts and conservative dual colored ties walked the sidewalks, sat on park benches, rode in taxis, and many of them also became friends.

Later that afternoon we finished our presentation. It was a great presentation. It wasn’t great because of our preparation. It wasn’t great because of the detail we provided. It wasn’t great because of our wonderful rehearsed oration skills. And it wasn’t all that great as a result of our expensive Kodak slides. It was a great presentation because friends who would learn to trust each other began to talk openly about why business should or shouldn’t follow.

No, the blockbuster deal never happened. It wasn’t because of the lack of friendship. The deal just wasn’t right for the customer, or for the financial industry itself. But the real blockbuster deal that happened, was the lessons learned about why we created friendships that that day, and how other business followed between those friends over the next 25 years.

I feel fortunate to have discovered at an early age the reason I make friends before I make business. As a result, even if the business deal isn’t what we anticipated, we’re able to repair, and move on to other successes because of the trusting friendship we created along the way.  But in reality, the deals we have made typically resulted in great success for each of us, because the foundation is right.  We made friends first, and business did follow.

 

Rare Leaders™ are strong in relationships.  Rare Leaders™ do believe, if you make great friends, great business will follow.

  1. Who are your friends in business?
  2. What gift of friendship have you shared?
  3. Where have you found great business to follow great friendship?
  4. When will you try to make friends before you make business?
  5. How will your friendships bring long lasting success?

 

If you want to learn more about the Rare Leader™ in you, 
or if you are interested in retaining Steve as your Executive Coach, 
Contact Steve Riege via: twitter, or his website.

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