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Susan Brooks
Relationships Matter, Always.

September 2020

I call myself a Modern Elder, inspired by Chip Conley, author of Wisdom at Work, The Making of a Modern Elder. Chip is my Hero, a rebel hotelier who incorporated the art of the customer service experience into every aspect of his global boutique Joie de Vivre Hotels. He sold his company and then was hired to work with Airbnb, hired as a teacher and mentor using his industry experience.

Yet he was totally lacking in digital fluency, a cornerstone for Airbnb's success. In this arena, he was a student and an intern, and twice the age of the average Airbnb employee. Combining the digital proficiency of Airbnb with the human skills and wisdom of Chip's business years of experience became a winning combination of talents and skills that offered the best possible world for them both.

This is my fourth year as a Venture Mentor@ASU. I get the opportunity to practice being a Modern Elder balancing my roles of teacher and learner, especially in the digital world my mentees live in that feel so alien to me. I am grateful for my years in the trenches of my own multi-million dollar business providing more hard-earned lessons I can share in any one semester to my mentees, including developing the soft skills of building business relationships.

One of my mentees needed a professional connection on a specific issue for his non-profit venture. I introduced him to a colleague who is the CEO of a very successful global non-profit. They set up a time to meet. Unfortunately, I found out from my colleague that my mentee never showed.

I was embarrassed...and angry. As professionals, referrals matter and a no-show is a poor reflection on me as well as my mentee. Our next session was dedicated to:

I explained why he needed to earn my trust before I would refer my network to him again. He got it, apologized, and expressed gratitude for this important lesson in building a business relationship.

nother mentee met me on zoom for our first session. She's in Barrett's Honors College working on her Ph.D in Human Systems Engineering. Whoa! What IS human systems engineering? And how can I be the right person to mentor her? I reminded myself business is business, same principles apply, let's do this!

My first sight of her on zoom made me laugh out loud: she had this funny face app with sunflower cheeks and donkey ears morphing into an angel. What a fun digital way for us to begin! When she shared that her business is about creating an app to help students study together, I knew she would also be my teacher.

Today business swarms around zoom and emails. Whether it's for the first time or post-COVID days, there is a missing art of building business relationships. There is finesse needed, gratitude and graciousness in the approach, and above all an understanding that BOTH parties are giving valuable time and attention to this relationship.

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you are growing your relationships:

  1. Begin with gratitude. Expressing appreciation works every time.
  2. Stay respectful of the other person's time and position.
  3. Put yourself in the other's shoes: What's in this relationship for them and how can you help them get there? The best relationships are those that grow together. See visual above.
  4. Before you reach out, take your time. Craft an email that introduces your intention. Check out their bio and ‘connect the dots' wherever possible. Take the time to research and prepare your agenda and priorities. Your efforts will show your commitment.
  5. Report back/Follow up. Let your business relationship know how their service and time has really made a difference. (Makes my day when I hear from one of my first high school students or one of my previous clients, they still matter to me.)

To begin and keep a business (every) relationship alive, you need to go below the surface, to dig deeper, to connect, to grow roots over time. See visual above.

Relationships are everything in business...and in life.

As Will Rogers said so well "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

Make it count.

Questions? Comments? Insights? Feedback? Concerns? Connection?
Email me: You'll hear from me, count on it!

The Ultimate Customer Experience SERVES YOU RIGHT™


Unfortunately, I haven't been out very much lately, and the few times I have, it's been ghastly:

C'mon Everyone, I'm just starting to reenter today's post-COVID real word. Gimme all you got. See me. Welcome me! Jump through hoops for me. I am starving for a customer service experience!

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Susan Brooks

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