27 May Why Building Strong Business Relationships is Crucial (And How to Navigate Relationship-Building After Switching Careers)
Building strong business relationships matters. Especially when moving from the corporate world to the world of real estate entrepreneurship.
What does every company have in common?
You might think that “sales” is the answer. But without “people”, a company won’t have any sales to begin with.
Without people, you won’t have anyone to produce the products or services you’re selling. And without your marketing and distribution partners, reaching your target customers will be an uphill task.
Whether it's on an internal or external level, each company’s success depends on the relationships it builds.
When you’re working for a large corporation, however, you’re often not solely responsible for your company’s relationships. Yes, you might hold additional relationship-building responsibilities as a CEO or an upper-level executive. But there’s often support staff, experienced mentor figures, and other departments to fall back on.
You don’t have that kind of support when you become a real estate investing business owner.
That’s why relationship-building skills are particularly important for aspiring and new investors. This is one of the key preconditions for anyone planning to transition from the corporate world to becoming a real estate entrepreneur.
And my brother, Steve Prefontaine, happens to be a great case study on the importance of relationship-building in both worlds.
Steve’ Journey from Corporate Employee to Solopreneur
Steve was working in the corporate world for a long time before he became a solopreneur.
He first started out at Quaker Oats as a regional sales manager. Then, he moved on to Kraft General Foods.
He left the food industry in 1995 and went on to become a Vice President and partner at Skaff Cryogenics. They specialize in cryogenic and liquefied natural gas storage tanks and trailers.
Steve joined the company when it was nearly broke. But he made significant contributions to turn the situation around, stopping only when it was sold off in 2018. That’s when Steve finally took the plunge and joined the world of real estate entrepreneurship.
The main reason was related to the internal politics of gigantic corporations.
Steve was tired of all the red tape, roadblocks, and white-collar drama. And after feeling increasingly caved and smashed in, he craved the autonomy of being an entrepreneur. He wanted to be responsible and accountable for his own actions, full stop.
After dealing with corporate bureaucracy for decades, he wanted to have the freedom to make lightning-quick decisions. No more spending hours and hours in boardroom meetings that never seem to end.
But this didn’t mean that he left everything in the corporate world behind. In fact, he still treasures a key lesson that he learnt early on.
And that’s the career-defining ability to build solid professional relationships.
Steve’s Early Lessons in Relationship-Building
Steve had a great mentor when he first started working at Quaker Oats.
His mentor had been an entrepreneur before he joined the corporate world. And he was already reaching the end of his career. Hence, he was able to filter out all the nonsensical parts of the business and focus on the bottom of things.
The biggest lesson he taught Steve was how to build relationships. This involved taking the time to speak to them and getting to know them.
Now, back then, Steve’s job involved dealing with buyers for major supermarket chains. And that meant he had to deal with major business executives and business owners that were often more than twice his age.
In fact, there’s one formative incident with one of them that has stayed with Steve over the years.
One day, he walked into a Stop & Shop in downtown Boston. And he saw the store manager taking all their Quaker Oats products off the shelf!
Steve was very young then, and he didn’t have much control over his temper. That’s why they immediately butted heads in a loud, confrontational way. And he eventually said, “Screw you!” and walked out.
Before long, however, Steve remembered what his mentor had taught him. His reaction definitely wasn’t how he was supposed to be dealing with other people.
So, he went back to the store, shook the store manager’s hand, and apologized.
The manager was not expecting that. He eventually said, “Nah, man. It’s me, I’m sorry. I should be better to you. You’re still learning how to do your job.”
He then invited Steve back to his office where they sat and talked for two hours.
And from that point onward, he was Steve’s best customer.
Three Key Points
First, in business, many people see others as a stepping stone to getting what they want. But Steve learned very early on that this wasn’t the way to build lasting relationships.
Your relationships help you get to where you want while you help others do the same thing. Mutual respect and benefit are the keys to longevity and business success, even in real estate.
Second, Steve internalized the importance of honesty. Even today, he believes that honest communication is the foundation for lasting relationships.
Whether with buyers, referral partners, or employees, you don’t want people to fill in the blanks on their own. Instead, let them know what you’re thinking all the time. That’s the key to achieving mutual understanding about where each relationship is headed.
Third, Steve believes in the importance of accepting your vulnerability.
Throughout his corporate career, he has been put in his place in the most wonderful ways… By the most unexpected people.
Even with all his accumulated wisdom and experience, he still believes in openly admitting that he doesn’t know all the answers. You have to do the same.
So, be willing to accept help from expected and unexpected sources, from employees, mentors, and other people in the real estate industry..
You can only keep improving if you keep your mind open. Because you can’t progress without being open to new ideas and insights.
Taking the Good, Leaving the Bad
Steve’s story demonstrates how longtime corporate workers can reinvent themselves as solopreneurs.
While being an real estate entrepreneur does require a different mindset, certain skills are crucial in both contexts. In Steve’s case, the relationship-building skills he acquired in the corporate world have served him well in his new role.
I also hope that Steve’s story has been inspirational to you, especially if you’re planning to leave the corporate world yourself and transitioning to real estate entrepreneurship.
The truth is that since COVID-19, many people have taken the prospect of taking control over their lives and livelihoods more seriously. After all, the safety and security of a corporate job seems less certain than ever.
Have you been entertaining the idea of transitioning to the real estate industry? If so, do consider booking a strategy session with me to discuss your future plans: