By Mario Burgos, Guest Contributor
Long-term business success is not sales driven, nor product driven or strategy driven. Sure, those are all key factors, which will contribute to your business success. But, ultimately, it is the relationships you develop that will determine the growth curve and sustainability of that growth once it is achieved. And, successful business relationships, at their core, are not any different than successful personal relationships.
They boil down to two fundamental questions: Do I like you? Do I trust you?
To answer those questions, I have to get to know you, and you have to get to know me. I attended my first SAME Small Business Conference seven years ago. I have to admit that it was more than a little intimidating.
SBC was a whirlwind of activity and our company was just making inroads into the federal marketplace. At this one event, there were military leaders, important agency points of contact, and some of the most successful prime contractors in the business. Plus, a ton of knowledge to be acquired from the education sessions and from visiting with key service providers (such as surety agents, attorneys, and capital sources).
I have found that whatever we have invested into SAME pays back exponentially.
As I delivered my elevator pitch while walking up and down the exhibitor aisles and during the networking events, I was wondering if this was truly a good investment of our company’s very limited resources. Was 60 seconds of conversation really going to lead to new contracts in the next quarter? Would the agency small business representative remember me from the hundreds of others they met at the conference? Would I get a call the following week from a capture manager at a large prime because I gave a quick rundown of my capabilities?
While having the chance to visit with, and learn from, potential teaming partners, government agencies and large primes in the exhibit hall and through education sessions and networking roundtables, is a big part of the SBC experience, it is just a first step to what really matters: developing long-term, meaningful relationships.
Now, seven years later, I can tell you unequivocally that it is the relationships that developed by attending SAME local, regional and national conferences year after year, that has been key to our company’s continued exponential growth. At first, we could only afford to attend the local monthly luncheon. Then, we scraped enough money together to attend our first SBC. What we learned and who we met at that conference was invaluable as we continued to pursue federal opportunities. So much so, that SBC has been a MUST attend event for our company. When we had a little more money to invest, we chose to add attendance to SAME’s other national events (the Joint Engineer Training Conference, the DOD & Federal Agency Program Briefings, and the Facilities Management Workshop). And now that our company has a national presence, we also attend as many regional industry day events as our schedule allows.
At this one event, there were military leaders, important agency points of contact, and some of the most successful prime contractors in the business.
So, while the 60-second elevator pitch and obligatory card exchange is important (you always have to take that first step). The real return on investment comes from taking the time to truly get to know three to five people at each conference, after each conference, and at future local, regional and national events.
What happens after we all head home is just as important as what happens during the week. And why only three to five people? Because let’s face it, you can’t follow up in a meaningful way with the hundred people with whom you exchanged business cards. But, when you have a meaningful, more in-depth conversation after the conference (or at the next conference), that is when the relationships start to evolve.
Return on Investment
I have found that whatever we have invested into SAME pays back exponentially. When we enter a new market, I find I always have someone local whom I trust that I can call for subcontractor referrals. When we are considering a new partner, my friends from SAME are invaluable in helping me do my due diligence. Then, there have been those times when I’ve found myself facing a unique contracting challenge, and I’ve called a contracting officer or small business representative I’ve met though SAME to get a government perspective on finding a win-win to a “hypothetical” situation.
So why attend the 2018 SAME Small Business Conference for the A/E/C Industry, Oct. 31-Nov. 2 in New Orleans? Because I am confident that you, like me, will find people you can like and trust—and that’s critical to growing your business. I look forward to meeting and getting to know you in the Crescent City!