The Importance of Personal Relationships

by Moe Arora on March 31, 2008

Okay, this post might crossover into rant mode, but I have to get this off my chest.

A little while ago, I noticed someone had sent me a friend request on 2 different social networking sites; Facebook and LinkedIn. I know who the person is, but I’m not very familiar with her because we’ve only briefly dealt through someone else in the past. On the few instances that we have spoken, she seemed nice and professional, so I decided to accept her friend requests.

She contacted me with an update of what she’s doing now and we exchanged a few emails over a 2 week period.

As you already know, I have my own business; so I have a few people on the team, but I also keep a short list of freelancers who I’ll outsource work to for certain services. I’ve seen her work and thought her quality of work and price would be a good match for one of my clients.

I called her up and gave her a brief rundown about this potential client and what was needed, but never went into details about who the client is and where they’re from. We spoke a bit and agreed on a rate for her retainer services.

Later that night, I logged into my Facebook account and noticed that she added 3 people from my Friends List. 2 of those guys were the clients who I was discussing the contract for, but I never mentioned their names or any real details about them.

We don’t live in the same area and she works in a very specific niche, so it’s unlikely for us to have many contacts in common.

I thought it was kind of strange but thought maybe she’s just one of those people who treats Facebook like MySpace and adds as many people as she can without making real connections with them.

Then, the next day, I get a call from my client telling me that he just got a message from her saying she can offer him a cheaper price if he goes directly through her.

WHAT?!

How bold can you be?

But wait, it doesn’t stop there.

The same evening, I noticed she joined about 5 groups that I belong to and ended up adding the admins of those groups as well (also people on my Friends List). These were all relatively small, local production companies and labels that don’t really operate within her niche; so again, it’s highly unlikely that she knows them.

The next day, I got some phone calls and emails from a few people telling me that she contacted them also and offered them the same thing. They noticed I was the only “mutual friend” so they wanted to give me a heads up on this back door shyster.

I can’t lie – I was vexed! I was about to pick up the phone and put her on blast. Did she think I wouldn’t find out? Did she think I’d just ignore it?

My blood was boiling at first, but then I realized – these people all called and told me about it. They got this random person who just added them on a social networking site and started pitching them straight from the gate. They don’t know her nor have they ever heard of her. All they know is that the only person they can link her to is me and that they hired my company to handle the services she’s pitching them.

They all sensed a rat and even deleted her from their Friends List as well.

But the fact that I’m the only person they can link her to plays into their perception of me and my judgment. We really have to be careful about who we keep around us. It’s hard sometimes because most of us work in industries that are built on greed and backstabbing. Especially the music business!

How do we know who to trust and when we find those people, how do we know how far our trust should stretch?

Obviously, she can’t be trusted and I’m curious as to how many bridges she’s burned so far, but even though she went directly to some of the artists, managers and indie labels I work with; I’m not really worried. She oversaw my secret weapon – Personal Relationships!

I don’t just walk up to people, hand them my business card and walk away. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I see it all the time at industry events; people walk around and give out their cards like they’re passing out club flyers – they don’t even speak to anyone. A lot of artists and beatmakers are guilty of doing the same thing with their CDs: just put it someone’s hands and walk away. I call that “spam networking”. There’s no point to it; nobody’s going to remember you when you spam network.

For me, I don’t just meet people; I develop relationships. When I look through my address book, I don’t see “contacts”; I see PEOPLE. I see experiences and memories. That’s not something that just takes 5 minutes to build. This is something that takes while to build and that you maintain on a constant basis.

Whether it’s wishing someone happy birthday, taking them out when they’re in town or even just grabbing a drink together because you haven’t seen each other in a while; these things are important. But don’t just do it because you feel obligated or for networking reasons only. People can tell when you’re being fake. Do it because you genuinely want to. Lucky for me, I’ve come across many people who I easily get along with and whose company I enjoy.

So, back to the situation at hand; to her and to anyone like her – you can steal all the contact info you want and try to pitch them, but I can pick up the phone and share a laugh or even ask for a favour if ever needed.

No matter what you do, what industry you’re in or where you are in your career, never underestimate the power of a personal relationship.

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