Your Relationship is Your Social Capital and Currency

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ELEVATING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

In every business relationship or tendering process, relationships are everything and I mean everything. By the time you have been called to the table or if a customer is considering you, it is clear that you have the technical ability to do the work or provide the service, usually the big difference and deciding factor on whether you get the job or not, is relationships. Your relationship is what will eventually make the difference for you in every business situation.

Some call these relationships social capital. What is social capital? Social capital is a form of economic and cultural capital in which social networks are central, transactions are marked by reciprocity, trust, cooperation, not for oneself but for the common good of all. Investopedia, also defined social capital as an economic idea that refers to the connections between individuals and entities that include people who trust and assist each other, which can be a powerful asset.

Fukuyama and Kenworthy recognise “social capital to be important to the efficient functioning of modern economies”. They do not think business and society can function effectively and efficiently without social capital. Let’s think about it. Is there anything we can do without social capital? I am sure that the answer will be no, which is why we must ensure that we do all we can to proactively build and develop our social capital.

Social capital is the international currency of networking, especially business networking or relationship building.
According to Chris Cancialosi, here are reasons social capital is the most important resource your business must have:
It Establishes You as a Leader – When you start to offer advice or resources to others without expecting an immediate benefit. When you do so, you are building your social capital. Giving to and supporting others builds trust and establishes your reputation as an upstanding person or business who is skilled in your field — two qualities that are critical for buyers looking to engage.

To build trust in your network, do the following:
• Become an active contributor to your field.
• Provide value to your network via social media and in-person events.
• Contribute to dialogue and debate.
• Share the work of others with your network. I see many people ignoring other people’s work and then expecting theirs to be shared or acknowledged. It is a symbiotic relationship.
• Support others’ endeavors when they need advice or support. Be willing to help as much as possible.
• Be a person who adds value to others by connecting them to people who may help them.
• Be honest with your team. Refusing to hide even the toughest truths will earn the trust of the people closest to you.

It fosters reciprocity – After you’ve provided wisdom, support, and connections to others in your network, you can begin to count on those people when you need support.
It creates stronger teams – Social capital doesn’t simply exist external to your organisation. You can also build strong, honest, and mutually beneficial relationships within the walls of your company. And by so doing, you make sure you can count on your people to have your back when the time comes.

This internal social capital is nurtured within your walls every day, but it’s also fed by outside relationships.
Set objectives to ensure return on investment – Unless you set some objectives for building your social capital, it will be difficult to show benefits. You will need to benchmark your social capital efforts at least twice a year. Assess whether you have reached your performance targets.

How do you build your social capital?
Recognise that relationships are currency – According to Ivan Misner and Emad Rahim, the key to improving your social capital isn’t the number of contacts you make. They both say what’s important is making contacts that become lasting relationships by:

• Giving your clients or customers personal calls. Always find out if there’s anything else you can do to help.
• Calling all the people who have referred business to you. Ask them how things are going. Try to learn more about their current activities so you can refer business to them. Reciprocity is the key as indicated above.

• Listing 20-50 people to stay in touch with. Include anyone who has given you business in the last 12 months as well as any other prospects you’ve connected with recently. Stay connected with them on social media, which makes connections very easy and make sure you send them special greetings during the holidays.

• Following up. Following up is the key. Do not wait until the next time there is a need or an opportunity to reach out to your contact. Work on deepening the relationship, by taking it beyond the acquaintance level.

• Knowing that to Build social capital, you need to be social. We are not talking about just saying ‘hello’ here and there, vanishing for a few weeks, and then coming back when you feel like it. You should formulate an effective relationship building and networking strategy in which you also open – and maintain – pages on more than one platform. At a minimum, you must have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

• Educating yourself and familiarising yourself with your niche in order to engage effectively – Educating others is good, but educating yourself is better. Familiarise yourself with your niche, your industry or whatever interests you. Learn as much as you can, read and find out the key trends that are shaping your industry. That kind of research will pay off exponentially later on when you embark on your business career, because you would know exactly what works, what does not, and what your rivals are doing.

• Cultivating the company of prominent people – Don’t waste your time with the wrong people – online and offline. ‘Show me your friends, and I will tell you who you are,’ says the axiom. The idea here is to amass social goodwill by forming solid ties with prominent personalities in your niche. That way, you can indirectly benefit from their social capital whenever they mention your name or refer you to their friends and business contacts. Don’t reinvent the wheel; just copy what the best are doing, and you could be on your way to business stardom, too.

• Establishing thought leadership – become an authority by speaking at conferences, writing articles or mentoring others. All these activities serve to set you up as an expert in whatever field you choose, as long as it fits nicely with your future business aspirations. Remember that people generally ascribe expertise and intellectual authority to someone who writes a book or delivers a comprehensive speech or presentation on a topic – and does so not just once, but several times.

To ensure that your equity continues to increase in value, ensure you make it mandatory to cultivate your relationships offline and online, at all times, and wherever possible.