Create your own currency — Daymond John’s way
Looking for resources to grow your business? Start banking on the relationships you’ve built.
"Too many of us get caught up in thinking we need to put out a certain image or vibe for others to look our way. But people will accept the real you."
– Daymond John, “the People’s Shark,” Founder and CEO of FUBU
As we grind and hustle to get a business off the ground, every resource we can put into play is precious. But the asset we tend to value most — money — usually seems to be in the shortest supply.
The thing is, each of us is sitting on another type of bankroll that's just as powerful but typically overlooked: our relationship capital.
I'm talking about the network of friends and associates you've developed over the years. The reserve of goodwill you've built on the back of your good name and your extra efforts. The sum total of every time another person has said, "I owe you one."
You can't borrow relationship capital the way you can borrow money. But with proper care and feeding, this asset can grow without limits. It's the glue that holds everything else in place.
Honor what brought you together
The Rolodex I keep in my head is chock-full of names and faces. While each one means something to me, I put more stock in some than others. My most valuable relationships have a core of love and respect that come from an authentic place.
So what makes two people gravitate toward one another? More to the point, what keeps us involved in each other's lives? Don't know about you, but I look for common ground.
When I'm meeting with someone for the first time, I want to hear a little bit about them and their family. Maybe we both come from similar backgrounds. Maybe we like the same kind of music or we root for the same ball team. Whatever that link may be, it gives me something solid to build upon.
In the early days of FUBU, I got to know what each of my business partners loved doing — and was good at — then put them in charge of those areas. Keith Perrin, the most social and outgoing one, dealt with our celebrity endorsers. J. Alexander Martin had the keenest eye for style, so he kept us tuned into fashion trends. Carlton Brown's flair for managing logistical details made him a great fit for inventory and shipping.
The more you learn about people, the better you are at tapping into their passion, goals and skill sets. Also, there's mad power in a team of individuals pooling their diverse talents to hit a shared target
Do what's right — just because
If there's one golden rule to developing a rock-solid support network, it might be this: Treat people fairly and they'll remember you. Every relationship matters, not just the ones where you see potential to get a favor down the line.
During those late nights at the FUBU offices, I always thanked the security guard and the cleaning crew for doing their thing. For me, recognizing and appreciating people for their hard work is a consistent part of the relationship capital that I try to build whenever I can.
And you never know when you might need to call on a friend or colleague in your mental contact list. It doesn't mean they'll always be willing to help you out of a tight spot, but the time you've put into that relationship can make all the difference.
You can't just play at being kind or decent or grateful, though. People see right through that act. Put good out into the world because it's the right thing to do, and good will come back to you.
See your reputation as your skyline
Every time I fly into New York or head toward Manhattan, one glance at those iconic skyscrapers on the horizon brings a flood of thoughts and feelings. Same thing happens with the people in our personal and professional orbit as we build relationships.
They get to know our ethics and morals, how we handle different situations, what we're saying on social media. For better or worse, people's impression of us gets planted early on, and the roots go deep. Unless you're nurturing those relationships, which includes all aspects of your reputation, they can erode the foundation of who you are and what you represent.
Again, you have to be authentic. Too many of us get caught up in thinking we need to put out a certain image or vibe for others to look our way. But people will accept the real you. They'll feel more confident in the value you bring to that relationship. And they'll want to give you tools and space to perform at your best.
Give as good as you get
Relationship capital can't survive, much less thrive, in a vacuum. If someone does me a solid, I want them to know that I'll be there when they need one. Want to build influence and respect in your community? Start by being generous with your time, talents and other resources — even when there's nothing in it for you.
Sooner or later, a true win-win opportunity will pop up. Then another, and another. One of my favorite examples of real-life symbiosis at FUBU grew out of a situation that every start-up business owner can relate to: great idea, no money.
In our case, we wanted to splash our brand across New York but couldn't afford more than a couple traditional billboards. Then a stroke of inspiration hit us. What if we offered to clean up the graffiti-stained security gates that protect mom-and-pop storefronts after hours?
Dozens of boutique clothing shop owners in various neighborhoods agreed to our deal in exchange for letting us paint the FUBU logo and artwork on their roll-up doors. For a few hours' work and the cost of a couple cans of spray paint per gate, we got prime ad space all night long in the New York neighborhoods where many of our target customers lived. Encouraged by the great response, we soon repeated this campaign in Philadelphia.
That experience taught me a powerful lesson about doubling down to support the people and communities that gave us our shot in the first place.
Care for every point of connection
We're all still reeling from the ongoing shock waves of a deadly pandemic, divisive politics and dramatic protests against racial injustice in 2020. When face-to-face contact with the important people in our lives is harder to get, nurturing and growing those assets has never been more crucial.
In the words of renowned social media strategist Ted Rubin, "A brand is what a business does. A reputation is what people remember." After working your whole adult life to build a good reputation and the relationship capital that flows from it, why would you squander those assets?
Yet that's what can easily happen when we take the people in our networks for granted or, worse, start abusing those relationships. I understand the temptation to use your relationship capital as collateral to generate new, more impactful relationships or opportunities. But that's the quickest way to bankrupt your entire network. And it's a mistake that's hard to reverse.
You can avoid that pitfall by focusing on ways to deepen your current relationships. Pick a few people or groups of followers each week, and check in with them. Take steps to protect your network. Think long and hard before asking one of your contacts for a significant favor. And when you're thinking about putting two individuals or groups together for a potential opportunity, make sure there's something worthwhile in it for both sides.
In short, treat your relationship capital with as much care as the money in your bank account. You only have so much of it, and it will only take you so far. But it's essential to making a powershift: building your influence, negotiating for the things you need and want, and moving your business forward.
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