There are three little words that we all want to hear this Valentine’s Day. When we hear them, we know that we’re on to a good thing, something important, something that will stand the test of time.
Reputation, relationships & revenue.
OK, perhaps they weren’t the three words you had in mind, but why not think about it from the professional perspective? Valentine’s Day is about celebrating relationships after all, and when more than a third of our adult waking lives is spent at work, taking a few moments to consider how those relationships could be improved is more than worthwhile.
The Three R’s model
(reputation + relationships = revenue) is a good place to start. The Three R’s talk about a company’s place in the world, i.e. its outward looking strength. Reputation, put simply, is a combination of quantity and quality – how widely is a company known, and how well is that company thought of among those who know it. Relationships are the same, but the axis is between how extensive a network the company has, and how much of that network have decision-making power in companies and markets relevant to its line of business.
Switching the focus to the internal for a moment, in a week were relationships are under the microscope, it’s a chance to take a closer look at the importance of relationships within companies, and specifically how they influence and underpin a business’s external relationships, reputation, and ultimately revenue.
We’ve said that how many people know a company, and what they think of it are the two key components of reputation. Across both of these, the trails of breadcrumbs leads quickly back to internal relationships. Discounting for a moment the incumbent scale of the business and how many lives it touches, a market’s exposure to a brand is based on the quality of its marketing, and the quality of its marketing is based on the quality of its thinking.
Thinking creatively in a way that will cut through the fog of homogeneity is a process that, according to Thomas Edison is
“one per cent inspiration and ninety-repnine per cent perspiration.” Many hands make light work, but many brains are essential. Another great thinker, Isaac Newton famously said,
“if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”, which for someone as famously arrogant as Newton is a surprisingly frank admission of the collaborative nature of success. But the crux of the point can be summed up using the ever-relevant words of Darwin, that in
“the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
Nearly a century and a half after Darwin’s death, technology has unleashed collaboration on an unprecedented scale. In the battle of the brands where everyone looks alike and survival of the fittest is largely a question of creative differentiation, harnessing the combined expertise across marketing, R&D and product centric business units is the corporate equivalent of opposable thumbs – a winning advantage.
The kind of relationships that companies thrive on – the ability to get through the door and secure the precious time of exactly the right person at just the right moment – result from a combination of factors that are far from scientific. Some people have spent years building up and maintaining strong networks while others are experts at harnessing particular events or situations to get them the attention they need.
The common theme is always relevance. Why is it relevant to engage with me, and why now? There are two basic gambits:
“we know the same people” or
“we’re interested in the same things”. Both of them lead straight back to internal relationships. In most medium size organisations full of smart, engaging, sociable professionals, there will always be someone with either the knowledge or personal connection necessary to build, save or enhance an important relationship. What is almost always lacking is the awareness of that interconnectivity within the organisation. Even with tools like LinkedIn, which can map us within up to three degrees of separation (i.e. more than enough for any external relationship in our own market) we still so often fall down because of the dearth of internal communication.
Celebrating relationships is easy; building them is less so. That’s where having the right suite of tools that bring people together comes in.
There have been many articles about how enterprise social networks break open business siloes, fuel collaboration and create companies that are united by a culture and a common purpose, but here’s just one quick example of how that can work – and it just so happens to be the best.
The axis of
Teams, both from
Microsoft and both part of
Office 365 lets employees reach out, make connections, share and learn, and then consolidate and perfect all in the one workflow. Yammer is a one-to-many platform, where employees can challenge or question their colleagues across the whole organisation, connecting to the relevant person whether they are a complete stranger or someone in a common interest group. That means that the sum of any company’s formidable experience and expertise can be always on tap.
Once that connection or connections have been made, enter Teams, to bring together the most relevant people and give them the group workspace they need to achieve their aims.
While standing on the shoulders of giants is great if you’re hoping to be a world renowned physicist remembered through the ages, for most of us, standing on the shoulders of our colleagues still makes us twice as tall.