I was recently invited to be a keynote speaker for a business class at the local community college. If you knew my educational background, you would realize how hilarious this is.
I received my Bachelors in Communications, with an emphasis on Advertising. I also received a minor in English. In college, I avoided business classes like they had the cooties. I was going to write commercials and be the head of a creative department for an ad agency. I had no need for business! Business, I deduced, was for suckers.
Then I stepped out of college and into real life, where another education began. I quickly realized that business, in a general sense, is the lifeblood of all we do. But not in the way that I understood “business” in college as a “profession.”
I believe that business is relationships.
As I pulled thoughts together before speaking to this business class, I wondered what insight or significance I could possibly bring to them. I had no formal education about running a business, and I had very minimal practical experience in doing it.
So I began by looking at my career path. In a nutshell, here it is. Out of college, I started working at an ad agency, in a public relations capacity. After a couple of years, I was approached by a friend about a job as the marketing director at his bank. I was there four years and left when a friend recruited me to work at another public relations firm. Shortly after that, I was at a Christmas party when a “friend of a friend” heard I was looking for something “different.” He hired me on the spot as an account manager for a residential window subcontractor. I was there for a few years when the industry downshifted to almost a halt. I talked to a friend of mine (our sons were on the same baseball team) about the commercial insurance company he worked for, and he invited me to talk to the owners. A few months later, I was hired. A year later an extended family member introduced me to their neighbor, who owned a fascinating company that produced a line of products for treating concrete. We kept in touch, and about two years later, as the economy worsened and many of my insurance customers were shutting their business doors, I was hired by this new company. Then, several months ago, an ideal situation opened up as a college friend of mine called and referred me to Rain, letting me know about a position they were seeking to fill in Account Services.
Almost every employment opportunity that has opened up has come as a result of an existing relationship. A friendship, and hopefully a mutually beneficial friendship. I didn’t start out my career with a philosophy regarding the practice of networking. I also don’t feel I have ever abused or misused a friendship. It just seems that organically, opportunities have bloomed.
I have always felt that there is inherent value in every relationship, that both individuals are improved by a genuine fellowship, friendship, and consideration of each other. And as a secondary event – as a result of that relationship – doors of opportunity are opened for each other to enjoy new friendships, new interests, hobbies, studies…and business relationships. Business is relationships. That is my philosophy on what makes the business world go ’round.