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Building reciprocal relationships
Founder, Fundraising Heavy Hitter, Public Speaker and Market Strategist
Find an activity outside of work that energizes you.
Focus on building business relationships that will be meaningful for your goals.
Ask for exactly what you need and always demonstrate how you can be of service to others.
Lesson: She Works with Rachel Braun Scherl
Step #9 Engage: Building reciprocal relationships
When you're an entrepreneur, you're focused on a thousand things. You want to make sure you make payroll. Our expression was always, "Are we going to be able to keep the lights on?" Everybody has advice for what entrepreneurs should do. You should sleep more, you should find a hobby, you should meditate, or you should do yoga.
The reason I continue to do the public speaking even with so little time is because it energized me. So what I would say to entrepreneurs is find the thing that energizes you. When you feel tired, when you feel beaten down, which will hopefully be fewer days than the days that you feel great and successful, find the things that rejuvenate you and give you energy.
For me, having that interaction with students, talking about my experiences, and being in a room of people where you're talking about female sexual health and it's funny, people are embarrassed, laughing, and jumping in. That energized me. So for me, while I was running a company, that was a positive piece. I think people have to decide what the outside activities are that are going to give them energy.
Everyone says sleep more. It's just hard to do. I get a lot of energy from relationships. I get energy professionally from them. I get energy personally from them. I think that's one of the things that drives me in my business life. It's one of the reasons that I love sales because I think it's all about building a relationship.
What became very clear to me when I was running Semprae with my business partner Mary Jaensch is that there was this big network of people out there who were available to me that I hadn't aggressively pursued. The experience taught me that I have to make networking and relationship building really critical.
One of the things that I say to women because I wish I had learned it earlier was really focus on building relationships that are going to be meaningful for what you're trying to accomplish in a business sense. So it isn't about making friends or having someone to run with although that's wonderful and nice. Some of your business relationships will translate into that. But really being focused about asking for things; being very articulate about what you might be able to do for them and they can do for you.
I was recently speaking to a group of students who were taking a month-long course in entrepreneurship and they asked me the question, "How do I get someone's attention if I'm going to cold call?" I said, very clearly, "I will be interested in talking to you if you indicated that you've been willing to invest some work before you call me." If I'm a VC, it would be great if you actually knew what I liked to invest in. It would be great if you had spent five minutes, ten minutes, an hour finding about my background and presenting yourself in a way that I felt like you had done research, I felt like you were a thinker, I felt that you were a problem solver, and I felt that you were actually going to also be able to add something.
You can't just continually call people and ask for favors. You have to offer value in return. It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where everybody was just focused day and night on doing nice things for one another. That's not the case. I've really focused my energy.
When I meet people and we had this experience, Shea, when I met you when you were in the early development process of building Zana. I liked your energy, I liked your focus, I liked your discipline, I liked your thought process, and I said, "This is a person I'd be interested in working with."
What has happened, I think for both of us we would say, is mutually beneficial in building your business, building my business, and opening up relationships. You're the first person to say, "You know based on what you've said I think this person would be good for you," and you immediately follow up with an email. Or vice versa you could say, "Do you know anybody in this area?" I'll reach out and I'll say, "I think this person might be a potentially good investor." It can be mutually beneficial and it does feel good. But it has to go two ways.
Women really have to learn you can ask very specifically. If someone thinks you're aggressive and you can't live with it, then don't ask. But I can guarantee that if you don't ask, no one is ever going to say yes.