Business Is a Contact Sport

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Building an effective sales force is vital to every organization that has a product or service that requires face-to-face contact with the customer to secure an order. But we did win more than our fair share because we were highly selective in recruiting and investing in the very best salespeople to obtain the very best results. Like high-performance athletes, we developed a mindset that we deserved to win every time we competed.

We described our competitive drive by coining the phrase: Sales is a Contact Sport. It made no difference whether male or female — it was all about the attitude and the commitment to win. Not everyone likes contact sports. Not everyone is good at contact sports. Contact sports are physical, direct, and active. You need to be highly competitive, thick-skinned, and productive in your position. You can get hurt playing contact sports. His first secret: master networkers are focused on giving, not getting. Sweeney illustrates his insights with dozens of helpful examples from his own life along with a few fascinating insider sports stories.

In his New York Times best-selling book , Networking Is a Contact Sport , Joe Sweeney has combined his love of business with his passion for sports to tell the story of his very early networking finesse even as a boy and how others can easily learn what he has applied so successfully to his own life, business, and relationships. Joe is a firm believer in the importance of staying connected with the people who cross your path in life.

For more than 30 years, Joe has traveled the world asking questions, giving of himself, and doing his best to discover what motivates people. Now, you have an opportunity to learn the simple skills Joe has perfected to grow your business, expand your influence, and take both your professional and personal success to the next level. The university won by having a young, growing IT consulting firm recruiting on campus. To this day, we believe in building strong relationships between businesses and business schools. One obvious source of talent in our Relationship Web was our current staff.

We offered cash payments to any employee who recommended a job candidate to us who we hired. Current employees rarely recommend a substandard candidate or a poor fit to their employer. It would reflect badly on them, and the candidate would probably not be hired anyway, which hardly creates warm feelings between them.

When it works out, however, the employee, the new recruit, and the company all win. Of course, after a few years, our positive media coverage and solid client list—and those job letters from well-known companies hanging in the reception area—also helped us bring on new people. Motivated, growth-oriented people look for the same qualities in their employers because fast growth creates opportunities for challenging work, rapid advancement, and salary increases.

Being named to Inc. In sum, we started small, both as a company and in RAM, no doubt about it. Developing RAM and formalizing the strategy took us several years. Yet the foundation of our success lay in viewing all relationships and potential relationships as assets right from the start and in strategically employing those assets to generate demand and supply to fuel the business.

This involved defining our goals ethical business practices, excellent working environment, rapid growth, and consistent profitability and understanding the success factors both on the demand side credibility and access to prospects and on the supply side talented, motivated employees as well as the risks larger, well-funded competitors.

Then we had to look across our Relationship Web and assess those relationship assets in light of our goals, success factors, and risks—and then work to build win-win relationships with those people and entities. The execution involved applying the principles detailed in the rest of this book.

Enough about us for now anyway. What about you? How can you begin to create a RAM strategy for your business or for yourself? RAM stands apart from other approaches to relationship management in several ways, but the main distinction is the strength of the tie between relationships and the needs of the business. Thus you start crafting a RAM strategy by developing a clear understanding of the goals, success factors, and risks of the business and, as you would in formulating any strategy, by setting a timeframe.

What do we want to stand for in our industry, in the community, and beyond?


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Which values do we want to project most forcefully to our stakeholders? By when do we need them? What if our technology is superseded? What if our two largest competitors agree to merge? The more complete and realistic the definition and analysis of goals, success factors, and risks are, the more useful RAM will be to your company. The current web is just that—the one that you and your company or your department have developed up to this point.

The optimal Relationship Web is the one that you need to achieve all goals, enhance all success factors, and mitigate all risks identified in the previous step. Charting your current Relationship Web should be relatively straightforward, as long as you consider everyone that you have a relationship with or that you come in contact with or know as a result of doing business. At this stage, cast a wide net and consider literally every person and entity you know.

Charting the optimal Relationship Web entails two additional steps: First, identify the people and entities that could help you achieve a win—reach a goal, enhance a success factor, or mitigate a risk—if you had a relationship with them. As you did in defining your current Relationship Web, you must cast a wide net at this point.

Involve & Change: Leadership Is A Contact Sport

With the right approach, you can make the Relationship Web of someone you know available to you. When someone knows someone who can potentially help you, that person belongs on your optimal Relationship Web. You will also usually have at least some entities and individuals that you have identified as potential stakeholders, even though you have not yet initiated contact. As a result of this exercise, you will have mapped your current Relationship Web and your optimal Relationship Web. However, the defining characteristic of exploitation is one-sidedness. Workers are exploited when they are not compensated fairly for their labor.

Communities are exploited when companies use their resources and provide little of value in return. The me-first mind-set quickly reveals itself. On the other hand, RAM is clearly a business strategy, a means of developing contacts and forming connections with people who can help you and your organization move forward. David Arnold, a retired vice president of Shipley, Inc.

However, I soon saw that the people you get to know can make the difference between success and failure in business. This is similar to the needsanalysis for any other resource. In their planning process, most companies gauge the equipment, skills, and money required to execute the plan. Assessing the gap between the current and required relationship assets—that is, between the current and optimal Relationship Webs— provides the motivation, at the individual and organizational levels, to implement RAM strategy.

Most companies are already performing at least some of the tasks that comprise RAM. They already have stakeholders and owners for many relationships. The motivation and justification for these efforts and outlays must come from somewhere.

Small Business Leadership is a Contact Sport

Gap analysis provides that motivation and justification by highlighting what needs to be done—and the payoff for doing it. For example, we knew that it would take effort and expense to build a relationship with local universities to improve our chances of recruiting recent graduates. Highlighting the importance of these relationships and the way they would help us reach our goals helped motivate us to implement RAM strategies.

In fact, at SCG we got into cost-benefit analysis as well as gap analysis. We looked at the cost of hiring, paying, and managing a sales force and then weighed it against that of developing relationships with vendors and the media. We weighed the cost of recruiting through normal channels such as want ads and employment agencies against that of developing relationships with universities and paying bonuses to employees who recommended successful new hires.

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Gap analysis highlights the relationships that you need to develop. Cost-benefit analysis reveals that because RAM strategies leverage relationships, they enable the organization to reach goals, enhance success factors, and mitigate risks with less expense and greater effectiveness than run-of-the-mill methods. RAM strategy also complements those traditional business strategies, just as they complement one another.

Financial strategies underpin both marketing and operating strategy in that expenditures and investments must support those strategies, and monetary returns must justify them. Relationships support all three traditional strategies. We believe that no marketing, financial, or operating strategy can be considered complete without a RAM strategy in place. Because various stakeholders are going to implement those strategies and be affected by them.

Those stakeholders must be considered so that, when appropriate, they can be brought into implementation efforts and, when necessary, be kept from impeding those efforts. In sports and in any other endeavor, a team with a solid strategy will outperform a team without one. Given the strategic importance of relationships, every organization needs a strategic approach to identifying, building, and managing them. In addition, anyone who can help you achieve a win is a potential member of your Relationship Universe. When you evaluate stakeholders or potential stakeholders for their ability to influence your wins, keep an open mind, but make explicit decisions about their possible roles.

Not every stakeholder can help with every win. Cost-benefit analysis weighs the cost of developing relationship assets against alternative methods of attaining objectives, and then considers the benefits of RAM strategy against traditional methods. No marketing, financial, or operating strategy can be considered truly complete without a RAM strategy in place because relationships will be instrumental in implementing any of those strategies. Abbott: No. Abbott: Okay. First, there are numerous stakeholders in most companies, particularly large companies, and not all of them are always recognized, let alone covered.

Second, stakeholders can shift roles, acting as employees, customers, investors, and citizens in the same week—or same day. Finally, few companies have relationship owners for all stakeholders and someone other than an extremely busy CEO coordinating all their efforts.

Managing relationships might not be new, but the idea of owning them is, and everything in business starts with ownership. With someone in charge, that element will receive the attention it needs. But the importance of relationship assets warrants this. The following story illustrates the importance of the CRO. Several years ago, a marketing manager in a division of a Fortune company distributed Cross pens as gifts to customers who were willing to try a new product. The promotion went well, until the marketing manager received a call from the marketing vice president in his division.

The vice president had received a call from the division president, who had received a call from the CEO at corporate headquarters. Why, he wanted to know, was a company on whose board he sat distributing Cross pens to its customers when Parker also had a line of fine pens? Well, the senior executive at Parker thought it was a big enough deal to call his fellow board member—the CEO—on it.

That CEO thought it was a big enough deal to get the message down to the marketing manager. By then, of course, it was too late. Yes, the marketing manager would know better next time. But what a missed opportunity to provide a win for a board member and his company at no additional cost, and maybe at a savings, and to avoid an embarrassing situation.

That is exactly the point: Small wins count. Most businesspeople can come up with a sensible if not always successful relationship management tactic when a huge win is at stake. The chief relationship officer provides all of that and more.

He creates the relationship environment and gets the right information on stakeholders to the right people. In this case, the CRO at the division would probably not know about the new product promotion. But he would have ensured that the marketing vice president was aware of all entities with an important connection to the company—board members as well as major investors, suppliers, and strategic partners. Then the marketing vice president, who did know about the new product promotion, would have ensured that the marketing manager used Parker pens rather than Cross pens as the promotional gift.

This illustrates one of the many wins that a CRO can provide. Those relationship owners are equally important to successful RAM strategy. The key individuals, however, are the relationship owner and the chief relationship officer. In addition, most large companies have a manager of supplier relations, usually the purchasing manager, and managers of employee, shareholder, media, and community relations.

In most instances, someone already involved in the relationship with a stakeholder can be recognized, confirmed, or assigned as the relationship owner. This person should be the primary direct contact between the company and the stakeholder.

Small to midsize companies without this formal structure usually have someone who can be confirmed or appointed the owner for each stakeholder. Smaller companies also have a natural advantage that companies of all sizes must strive for—personal relationships. Large companies cannot really duplicate those relationships, but with the right owners in place, they can create tighter bonds with stakeholders than they ever could without owners. Still, she should have occasional direct contact, particularly with significant stakeholders.

This will help her to understand the relationship and assist the relationship owner. It will also prepare her to step in during an emergency or provide continuity if the owner suddenly resigns. However, the owner should be the primary contact with the stakeholder. The strongest relationships result from multiple contacts at various levels throughout both organizations. Interaction at levels above and below the relationship owner—such as the CEO and the CRO above the owner, and sales assistants and administrative assistants, below the owner—create more points of contact and bind the constituent closer to the company.

Every win-centric contact strengthens the bond. Our client relationships were formed at the partner level the highest level of our organization and at the CIO or CEO level of the client. Our onsite consultants established relationships with their peers on the client side. Our support people did the same with their peers. The CRO appoints or recognizes the owner, and together they evaluate the relationship in the context of goals, success factors, and risks.

They also determine the mutual wins to be created over the period. The owner operates the aircraft, monitors the instruments, and responds to changing conditions, calling the tower—the CRO—when necessary. Meanwhile, the tower watches the skies for rough weather and for opportunities to soar higher, and advises the pilot accordingly. The owner will crash and burn without a good working relationship with the CRO. Success depends on common goals, respect for roles, mutual trust, and open communication the part of both parties.

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So, the relationship owner and the CRO are equally important. Some years ago, a communications giant realized that its major customers were being called on by numerous salespeople from various divisions. A large account might deal with someone from four different divisions in the same week. To make life easier for customers and more profitable for the company, management appointed high-level relationship managers RMs to oversee and coordinate the entire relationship between the company and major customers. We want your salespeople to cooperate with him.

What were the wins for the divisional salespeople? Rather than wins, they lost their autonomy and, quite possibly, standing with their customers. Thus, they viewed the RMs as a threat. Worse, it did nothing to help the divisions hit the revenue and profit targets that the parent company was still holding them to.

RAM principles would dictate scuttling this program before it was launched—or ensuring that the success of the RMs and the success of the divisional salespeople and managers were linked in win-win fashion. Also, there would have to be clearer wins for customers. At a high level, the RAM team extends horizontally across the company—that is, all of those in-place relationship managers for customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, the media, and the community must see themselves as a team.

As we grew larger, project managers became the owners while we handed the job of CRO off to one another. We also tried to establish multiple contacts between our people and everyone we could on the client side. This is essential to a long-term relationship, particularly in a high-turnover business. As noted, we developed multiple contacts in most cases but were particularly successful at Burger King, our first large client. How did we do it?


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  • We went out of our way to deliver timely, highquality work to the IT group—and to work closely with the users. If a human resources manager needed a report generated—say, a readout of all employees who received training in the past six months—we put one of our programmers on the task and got it done. This was a win for the user because, instead of having to wait in the queue of IT projects, she got her report the next day.

    The folks in IT got a win out of it because we took bricks out of their wheelbarrow. And SCG won by making new connections throughout the company. This had three effects: First, we increased the value that we delivered to the client. Second, the users came to know us and enjoy working with us. Third, SCG was the only IT consulting firm to last there as long as we did—the full eight years that we owned the company.

    During that time, the CIO position saw lots of turnover. We certainly understand that. Were we able to establish so many points of contact at every client? Unfortunately, no. In this case, the relationship management team spread far and wide and was still able to do a great job.

    At universities, after we were up and running, the relationship owner was a recent graduate of the school.

    Business is a Contact Sport by Tom Richardson

    That arrangement gave the university a comfort level, increased our credibility with potential job candidates, and ensured both continuity and current knowledge when one owner handed things off to a more recent graduate who served as the next owner. With employees, we were the owners in the early years. As our staff grew larger, individual project leaders became owners as well.

    Synonyms and antonyms of contact sport in the English dictionary of synonyms

    Others will have only one point of contact. The most effective relationship management teams have all three elements: a recognized owner, multiple points of contact, and a CRO, or someone who at least fills that role. Broadly, the CRO is this person: 1. Owner of the relationship environment 2.

    RAM missionary, teacher, and coach 5. RAM adviser and troubleshooter The CRO is the owner of the relationship environment in that he creates the space, so to speak, in which relationships are managed as assets. The environment dictates everything from the RAM strategies that relationship owners pursue to the way people think about and treat stakeholders.

    He knows their history and status. He eases the transition to a new owner. As co-owner, the CRO brings continuity to the relationship. In this capacity, he helps management at all levels to identify the Relationship Web and to use relationship assets to achieve goals, enhance success factors, and mitigate risks. He ensures that the entire company is aligned with the RAM strategy, and he monitors implementation. As RAM missionary, teacher, and coach, the CRO must first exemplify the principles of Relationship Asset Management and then instill those principles in the organization.

    Making everyone RAM-savvy entails formal training regarding relationship assets, their importance to the company, and RAM practices. Presentations, classes, videos, retreats, and interactive learning can all play a role in this effort. As RAM adviser and troubleshooter, the CRO is the chief lobbyist and ombudsman for the interests of all internal and external stakeholders.

    A CRO would have advised Microsoft management that, given its market share, the company should build relationships with competitors and with the government. As troubleshooter, the CRO is an on-call, in-house consultant on troubled relationships.

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    The CRO sits on any committee dealing with emergencies such as oil spills, strikes, takeovers, regulatory conflicts, product liability, or criminal proceedings. If such a situation arises in the context of a strong win-win relationship, management will find it far easier to address. This brings RAM to its fullest fruition. More recently, companies have appointed chief privacy officers, or CPOs, to guard customer information and other data. On February 12, , The New York Times reported that there are at least privacy chiefs in the United States, a number expected to exceed within a year.

    The CPO oversees privacy training, monitors compliance with privacy laws and regulations, and develops company privacy codes, among other duties. A chief relationship officer is ideally a distinct senior management position, although this ideal might not be possible initially. For whatever reason, a company might need to cast a senior manager with other responsibilities in the role of CRO. Medium-size firms with relatively limited resources might feel that they can combine CRO responsibilities with public relations or human resources duties.

    Although these areas might appear to overlap with RAM, this arrangement is far from optimal. Establishing a separate CRO position boosts corporate growth. To benefit significantly, even small companies should give the overall responsibility to a single executive who believes in RAM and has the skill and stature to do the job.

    In a small company, the owner might be the only person who can act as CRO. In a midsize firm, it might be the head of advertising, human resources, or marketing. Whoever takes the position or role of CRO must understand the responsibilities and be committed to executing them—and be qualified for the position, of course.

    As CRO, Helen co-owns relationships with portfolio companies, Entente which has been renamed Adjoined Investments , universities, banks, suppliers, employees, customers, and the media. Then we set out to invest in other IT consulting firms. The original model was to have Entente as the holding company and investment arm, and to have Adjoined and other firms in the portfolio. Then, down the road, they could be either sold individually, merged and sold as a unit, or taken public individually or as a unit.

    We believed that, although most people would view these firms as competitors, we could create an environment in which they could identify and develop mutual wins in many situations. We identified and formed relationships with entrepreneurs and investors at recently founded or seed-stage consulting firms. We acquired four more early stage companies, which rapidly merged into Adjoined, and a fifth one that is as of this writing still separate. This represents fruition of our strategy, but we had no idea that it would occur so quickly that we would wind up with a portfolio of only two companies in 18 months.

    Therefore, candidates for the job must come from another function. Given the nature of the job, the person should be selected as much for personal qualities as for professional experience. The following five qualifications are essential. First, the CRO must possess character, integrity, credibility, and professionalism. This is a high-visibility, high-impact position. She must be able to discuss touchy issues frankly without giving offense, and she must be a good listener. The CRO will be privy to sensitive information about corporate secrets, plans, mistakes, and careers.

    Some people are better equipped than others to handle such information. Second, the CRO needs a proven ability to develop and manage business relationships. The ideal CRO loves doing business and genuinely likes people and wants the best for them. What do you think? The CRO must thrive on the business dimension of human relations. The position exists to create win-win relationships, not to satisfy the needs of a social butterfly.

    Third, a good CRO would be a good manager and must have held a previous senior-level post. This enhances credibility and ensures that the CRO has experience and insights to offer senior and middle managers. The necessary administrative skills would be hard to acquire on the job. Fourth, a CRO should have broad, deep knowledge of the company and its industry. Knowledge of current technology, organizational structures, motivational tools, and best practices would be a plus. Fifth, the CRO should view problems dispassionately, without resorting to blame, retribution, or self-aggrandizement.

    This person needs maturity of mind, an ability to keep things in perspective and to help others do the same. Seeing the big picture and being able to soothe emotions are success factors here, as is a respectful, nonconfrontational, team-building approach. Some people can fake this in an interview, but it cannot be faked on the job.

    Thus, the CRO should be a known quantity, probably promoted from within. Some of these attributes are tolerable—and occasionally useful—in a CEO or entrepreneur. In a CRO, any of them could be disastrous, which raises a point. If the perfect candidate for CRO is not available, and that could well be the case, it is better to compromise on knowledge and experience, which are more easily acquired than integrity or a new personality.

    A senior manager we know at a major financial institution, who characteristically wants to remain anonymous, would be a terrific CRO. I mean angry people, ready to shout us down and take their business out the door. Jim comes in, and right away they calm down. When a company appoints a CRO, some people will respond negatively.

    Relationships are personal. Therefore, the CRO could be viewed as unnecessary or intrusive, or both. Recall the case of those RMs at the communications giant. People might ignore him or use him as a scapegoat. The CRO oversees an area of job performance that has never been systematically examined. This invites suspicion, resentment, and even sabotage. The situation becomes even more interesting when the CRO must confront his peers or superiors. The success of the position, therefore, depends heavily on the person who fills it. Success also hinges on support from the CEO and other executives.

    The necessary alignment occurs only through a series of candid, seniorlevel discussions. In these talks, people can air their concerns, agree on objectives, and commit to move forward with one voice and vision, at least publicly. At a minimum, all of senior management must believe that relationships are assets worth developing and that someone must be responsible for the task. On a brighter note, most people want to excel, and the CRO will help them do exactly that.

    When people seek expert assistance, they realize that they are behaving wisely. The CRO must understand this and capitalize on it. RAM is not an exercise in being nice for the sake of being nice. In either a full-time position or a part-time role, the CRO oversees implementation.

    Young companies that start out without a chief marketing officer or a chief financial officer soon realize that they need one. What happens when the right person assumes either of those positions? Marketing or financial management rises in priority. It becomes more systematic and sophisticated. Managers receive better information on their customers and budgets, and can therefore make better marketing and financial decisions.

    Managers and employees see that the company has reached a new level of maturity and seriousness of purpose. This provides a strong advantage to the company, in both absolute and competitive terms. In that sense, the CRO is a secret weapon, backstop, and equalizer. No company that wants to maximize the value of its relationship assets can afford to be without one. Thus, the relationship owner and the chief relationship officer are accountable for implementing each RAM strategy. He also acts as RAM missionary, teacher, coach, adviser, and troubleshooter.

    Knowledge of the company and its business and stakeholders is extremely important but is not an essential qualification in a CRO. Essential qualifications include maturity, integrity, ability to communicate, ability to balance emotions, a genuine interest in people, and the ability to create mutual wins in business situations. In the top of the sixth inning Dawson ran down a foul fly, banging into the brick wall next to the foul line. In the seventh inning he charged and made a sliding catch on a low line drive that otherwise would have been an unimportant single.

    The ball is in play every time the phone rings, every time they sit down to a meeting, and every time they meet someone new. They know that every interchange can move a relationship forward or move it backward. Winners are defined by what they make of the opportunities available to all of us. In our business and social lives, we all come in contact with a broad range of individuals and institutions.

    Yet some of us never seem to connect with these people. These obstacles can be overcome if you recognize the importance of other people to your success—and realize that you bring something of value to business relationships. The executive enjoyed talking with the dentist, but the contact ends there because the company has no dental plan.

    Yet that potential cannot be realized until two or more people make a connection. Therefore, the fourth principle of Relationship Asset Management encourages us to transform contacts into connections and, ultimately, into relationships. Instead, success depends on thinking in a certain way about the people you meet. Right from the start, whenever you meet someone, you must be actively thinking about ways for you to help that person realize a win and for him to help you toward one.

    The director of human resources knows the perfect temporary worker: the retired loading-dock supervisor. The man is available because the company never lost touch with him. The human resources department implemented an alumni contact program that keeps the company in touch with retirees. Because the chief relationship officer coached the public relations department on RAM strategy, the department has a relationship with the reporter who wrote that great story when headquarters opened and with her editor.

    So, the CEO can invite the reporter to visit the facility with him and the chief engineer to see their side of the situation. As a result, the dentist agrees to provide dental care for all employees at a reduced rate. This jumpstarts his practice, helps employees, and gives management a chip in the next round of compensation negotiations.

    Consequently, the company will accept five interns a year in a work-study program. Everyday interactions represent potential relationships, assets that can either be lost forever or developed to enrich everyone involved. The principle of transforming contacts into connections goes well beyond capitalizing on chance meetings. It also operates on a more strategic level, enabling you to ignite relationships with potential stakeholders you have identified.

    Now the task of building relationships with those parties begins. How do you do that? How do you make contact? How do you turn those contacts into connections and then into relationships? How do you cultivate relationships? This principle shows how to go about it. He weighs the strengths and weaknesses of both teams and works out match-ups, strategies, and plays.

    The game plan plays out spontaneously, thanks to the pregame prep. Preparation heightens your chances of making the most of a contact with a potential stakeholder. On the basis of that research, you can plan for the first contact before you initiate it. Research means gathering all the information you can about the potential stakeholder.

    Planning means using that information to formulate your approach and follow-up. Where does she live? How does she get to school? Who are her friends? What does she like? Is she seeing anyone? This hunger for knowledge springs from a desire for contact and connection. In RAM, information should be gathered with the impassioned intensity that a young Romeo would bring to the task. Nor are we suggesting that you rifle desk drawers, hire detectives, or interrogate acquaintances.

    People who earn their living by turning contacts into connections know the value of research. An executive recruiter we know compiles a veritable dossier on short-listed candidates for a senior management position before telephoning any of them. This recruiter seeks mutual acquaintances—including executives she has previously placed in other positions—who might be able to supply information and perhaps introduce her to the potential candidate.

    In planning, the headhunter anticipates the objections that the candidate will make when she approaches him. The recruiter must have an idea of what might make this person even happier. Her research has already given her the answers to the basic questions: How long have you been in your current position?

    What are your responsibilities? Which positions have you held in which industries? This frees the recruiter to prepare questions designed to spark a conversation: With your children now grown, have you considered a move to the Southeast? Your division was not sold in that attempted acquisition last year, but it could happen next time—may I tell you about an open position with greater stability? In RAM, information gathering continues during the initial contact, over the next several contacts, and beyond. For an initial meeting, research places you further up the learning curve. In some situations, premeeting research is a necessity.

    For instance, approaching a potential customer without understanding his business, or an investor without profiling the deals he pursues, or a government agency without knowing its agenda can be a relationship killer. Industry, products, and services; locations and regional coverage; sales, profits, major expenses, and significant assets and liabilities; major investors; alliances, partnerships, and equity connections with other enterprises; legal structure; and current and historical stock prices, if the company is public. Who founded the company; when and for what purpose; key changes and events, such as mergers and divestitures; and major successes and failures.

    Business and financial objectives, mission statement, reputation, regulatory issues, competitive position, strengths and weaknesses, chief competitors, and current problems and risks. Biographies of senior executives, makeup of workforce, corporate culture, and hiring criteria. Much of this information is readily available, especially on publicly held companies. The Web site of any organization is a good starting point.

    Also, the public relations efforts of many private companies have generated articles that can be accessed. These sites operate without editorial oversight or journalistic standards, so take them with a grain of salt. Pursue any firsthand information available from your Relationship Web. Do you have suppliers or customers in common? Do you know former employees?

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