Friday, December 15, 2017

These Three Types of Relationships are Your Secret Weapon to Success in Business

Relationship building is essential in any business, but this concept extends beyond customer and vendor relations. While those relationships are vital, it's the direct connections that, in many cases, can make or break your success in the business world.

These relationships are your secret weapon. The people you surround yourself with can help you do the impossible, change your perspective for the better, or inspire you to keep fighting against the odds. Without them, you'd have a long, uphill battle ahead.

So, what are these relationships? I believe it boils down into these three categories:


The overall benefits of having strong, positive personal relationships in your life are invaluable. According to a study conducted by Gallup, "Individuals who say they have family and friends they can count on to help them in times of trouble are consistently more likely to be satisfied with their personal health." From this same study, Lisa Berkman, Ph.D., of Harvard University also noted that "People who are socially isolated tend to have more physiological stress, poorer immune function, and a host of biological risk factors."

How are you supposed to a run a company or get that startup off the ground if you're feeling stressed and sick? This is why it is so important to build strong personal relationships as they can directly impact your working life (and vice versa, but that's another topic for a different day). It could be the connections you form with your spouse, significant other, friends, children, classmates, or other close family members. Who they are doesn't matter--what matters is the quality of the relationship.

For me, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very entrepreneurial and supportive family. My grandfather (on my mother's side) started his own business, which my father eventually ended up taking over. My uncle also started his own tech company back in the 80s, which was acquired by McGraw Hill. At family get-togethers, my grandfather would take me aside and explain how to invest in stocks or say things like, "Why would you ever work for someone else when you can create your company?"

This is not the case for everyone--and that's fine--but take a look at the personal relationships in your life. Are the people you're closest with challenging you? Inspiring you? Offering sincere encouragement? Because when we're happy in our personal relationships, we can focus our energy and passion into our businesses. But when these relationships are not going well, then it's all too easy to let that frustration and anxiety affect our work.  


The professional relationships you make throughout your career can directly impact your likelihood of success.

My co-founder, for example, continuously helps me to divide and conquer the Herculean feats we are sometimes tasked with. During the infancy stages of Centric Digital, we had about a week to source, recruit, and train talent for a $4 million contract. We split the to-do list and sourced an incredible team in a very short period of time that allowed us to fulfill the contract and scale our company. This anecdote speaks volumes about the importance of a trusting partnership based on confidence in each other's skills and expertise. Centric Digital would not have grown so quickly if I did not have these types of professional relationships.

This concept should be applied across your entire organization--do you have the same types of professional relationships with everyone on your team? Can you trust your key players to do what needs to be done to the best of their skills and ability? If not, it might be time to start building new relationships and changing out people on your team.


Advisors, mentors, coaches--having someone (or a team of someones) to guide your progress is essential, especially for those in leadership roles.

When you're on the top of an organization, you must surround yourself with people who are more experienced and knowledgeable to offer advice on your ideas, plans, and strategies. It helps if these people are outside of your organization and are excellent, high-quality superstars--otherwise you'll never grow, you'll never learn, and you'll always make mistakes. It also helps to build relationships with advisors who are outside of your industry as they can offer a unique perspective to your current challenges.

Wrapping up

There's a famous quote by motivational speaker and entrepreneur Jim Rohn that states, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." If this is the case, and I strongly believe it is, then take a moment to look at the personal, professional, and advisory relationships in your life. Are these relationships encouraging you to grow and be your best self? Do they make you feel empowered? Are you connecting with the type of people you have a deep mutual respect for? If the answer isn't a resounding, "Yes!" then it's a no. Which brings us to the real secret behind this secret weapon: networking.

If you want to surround yourself with amazing, talented, and progressive people you have to force yourself to get out there and network like crazy--and you need to do it with an open mind. Because you never know where or when you might make a crucial connection that will push you to advance your progress on the path to success.

Image Credit:Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Join WNFP Communities!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why Strong Relationships Are Key To Building a Luxury Brand

What makes a luxury brand, well luxury? If luxury brands were only steeped in their own high price points, consumers would turn to more moderately priced products. Millennials, especially, crave luxury experiences that extend far beyond the amount on a price tag.

Luxury is in the details, and paying close attention to these details can transform any brand, from a home sound system to a bedding company, from middle-of-the-road to high end. Luxury brands, whether they are fashion houses or five-star hotels, make the extra effort to go the to ensure that every encounter is one that makes consumers feel special. 

Luxury brands attract consumers because they excel at details. What separates iconic organizations from the wannabe's are the small, subtle characteristics that prompt consumers to gladly pay above and beyond a typical asking price.

But it's not enough to create a high-end product sourced from exceptional materials, you also have to market in a way that attracts luxury buyers. Promoting high price points or sleek products is not enough; when it comes to luxury, subtly and influence are the ways to win consumer loyalty.

If you're interested in building a luxury brand, you need to pay attention to how you're building relationships with three key audiences: influencers, employees, and consumers.

I sat down with Mark Birnbaum, one half of the duo behind famed hospitality group EMM to learn more about how he successfully creates luxury hospitality experiences. Among the restaurants in EMM's portfolio are Catch, Lexington Brass, and Catch Roof.

Throughout our conversation, Birnbaum harped on serving three primary audiences: influencers, employees, and, of course, customers.

Pay attention to high-profile influencers.

If a celebrity visits a nightclub or hotel, they automatically send the message to consumers that this brand is unique, and worth their hard earned dollars. Luxury brands need to leverage the influencers and household names to consistently convey their place at the top of the cultural zeitgeist.

Throughout EMM's tenure, Birnbaum and his partner Eugene Remm have never lost sight of the power of catering to high profile clientele. When EMM first made the decision to move Catch to Los Angeles, they knew they could only succeed with the support of the city's influencers. Their rolodex literally put Catch on the Los Angeles map.

According to Birnbaum, "Catering to celebrities has the power to draw immediate customer interest. Because people aspire to live like their favorite celebrities, they trust their tastes in experiences. Catch felt like a secret that only influencers had access to, which meant that the public immediately wanted in."

Celebrities are synonymous with luxury, and if you're interested in growing a strong luxury brand, you cannot abandon this customer base. Building partnerships with influential figures and  asking them to share their experiences on social media enables you to get on the culturally-relevant map almost immediately.

Don't overlook your own employees.

You cannot build a sound luxury company without serving your own employees. You are selling a lifestyle and it's imperative to practice what you preach. From transparent  communications to stellar working conditions and perks, treating your employees as VIPs creates a culture of positivity and passion.

Furthermore, when your employees are enthusiastic about their jobs, they become natural brand evangelists. Birnbaum says, "We pay special attention to every single hire we make at our locations. We want people who will not only assimilate to the culture of our restaurants, but individuals who can elevate it."

However, it's not just about hiring individuals with infectious personalities or stand-out style. Nurturing career development and implementing a transparent work culture empowers people to find confidence in their roles.

"When our employees feel confident and passionate, our establishments thrive. However, we know that instilling these attitudes starts with the EMM management team, and we know that the more effort we put into building relationships with our employees, the better our business will be," says Birnbaum.

Build unique experiences with every individual customer.

Consumers have an array of brands experiences to choose from. Even if they are influenced by their favorite celebrities and further convinced by testimonials, they still have to be convinced that your product or service is worth their repeat business.

Birnbaum is insistent in driving personalize experiences that make every customer feel unique. "We go out of our way to take care of our customers, ranging from regulars to first-time celebrities," Says Birnbaum.

Building a foundation steeped in 1:1 encounters enables EMM to continue finding new growth opportunities, because when customer service is the bedrock of your brand it's hard to falter.

As EMM looks to the future they continue to find ways to make each customer special. But they're also interested in finding solutions to make the experience convenient. Birnbaum is well aware that digital technology has dramatically altered customer behavior, and EMM is embracing digital change, including allowing customers to text in their reservations.

Creating a luxury brand with longevity demands effort; you cannot cut corners and expect to build a powerful organization. However, if you consistently commit to prioritizing these three groups in equal measure, you stand the chance of competing with the likes of Louis Vuitton and the Four Seasons.

ImageCredit:Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

10 Tips To Achieve Great Relationships With Clients

The client." Those of us in the professional world know this seemingly benign phrase and have learned that is to be respected and, at times, feared. Don’t get us wrong; we love the client. Without the client, we wouldn’t have jobs. The client literally puts food on our table and, for them, we are grateful.

But there exists a constant power struggle between the client and the professional. Given the possibility that a client could turn to your competitor if there’s a service-related issue, it’s important that you know how to deftly navigate this struggle, lest you lose your bread and butter.

Here, I’m going to give you 10 tips for dealing with difficult clients so you don’t lose your head -- or your paycheck.

Clearly Define What’s Expected
The first thing you’ll want to do when dealing with a new client (or an existing client with a new project) is to clearly define what’s expected with regard to the scope of the project. For instance, if you’re a designer, are you going to be overhauling a website, or simply updating a few of the graphics?

This is not to say you shouldn’t take on more work if it comes your way (more on that later), but have a clear idea of who you’ll need and for how much time.

Establish Clear Time Tables

Here’s what stinks: agreeing that you’ve got a month to do a project and then three weeks in, the customer needs it tomorrow. It’s only a few days earlier, they say. What’s the big deal?

It’s a big deal because you’ve budgeted your time and people power to have this project done on a certain date and you expected to have until that date, right? Right off the bat, establish a timetable, and not just some vague time in the future but a specific date and, I’ve even gone as far as a specific time on that specific date: end of day, beginning of the day, three o’clock, whatever you decide, but make it stick.

Put It In Writing

After you’ve done all this, put it in writing and have all the main players sign off on it. I can count on my fingers and toes the number of new companies I’ve seen enter “handshake deals” with clients and then end up with more work than they can handle. This can be great if you’ve got the manpower but, more often than not, you’ll get dragged down, miss deadlines and everyone ends up unhappy.

If you’re a business, I assume you’ve got some semblance of a legal department, but if you’re independent, there are some great resources to help you get an idea of what this kind of contract should look like.

Have A Single Point Of Contact

Draw straws, have a beer pong contest, a sack race or just let the new guy do it, but determine a single point of contact for a given project. There’s nothing worse than when a client doesn’t know who to call and ends up calling literally everybody.

Don’t Be Afraid To Say "No"

If you’ve worked with this client before, don’t be surprised if they call you in the middle of a project and say something along the lines of this: “Hey, we need you to do some extra work on the project. We know we didn’t agree to it but we’re willing to pay a little more.”

This can be a good problem to have, but workplace stress and burnout are becoming huge problems in America and one of the leading causes of mental health issues that lead to employee turnover. If you’ve already got a full plate, don’t keep slopping on more food. Chances are, the client will understand. Plus, you’ve got the contract to back you up, right?

Don’t Be Afraid To Say "Yes"

On the other hand, if you think you can take on more work, by all means go for it. Just keep the above statement in mind.

Don’t Minimize Their Issues

When issues come up (and they will come up) the worst thing you can do is minimize their issues by brushing them off either implicitly or explicitly.

Instead, let the client know that you hear them and are going to take steps to remedy what’s wrong. Of course, sometimes their issues in no way relate to you or your work and they're likely just blowing off steam in your general direction (this happens more than you think). Either way, hear them out and treat them with respect.

Make It Right

If there was a mistake on your end, take steps to immediately make it right:

• Take responsibility.

• Apologize.

• Offer them something. If the mistake was major, a discount on this project -- or better yet, future services -- might be in order. If the mistake was minor, the apology should do.

• Take steps not to let it happen again.

Never Lose Your Cool

Above all, never lose your cool in front of a client. Have it out with your staff at happy hour, but don’t do it in the meeting room. There are plenty of steps you can take if things start to get heated in the workplace to ameliorate the pressure and make sure things don’t blow up.

Don’t Fear Walking Away

Finally, if things just aren’t going the way either of you had imagined, maybe it’s time to break up. Many times, an amicable separation is better than delivering subpar work to an unhappy client, so don’t be afraid to walk away. Or, if they’re being particularly cruel or mean-spirited (yes, these people exist), don’t be afraid to fire them. There will be other clients, I promise.

I hope you never have to deal with a problem client, but in the event that you do, hopefully, you’ll find these tips helpful. Good luck out there!

Image Credit:shutterstock

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!