Doing Business Requires More Than an Internet Connection

Doing Business Requires More Than an Internet Connection

Earl G. Graves Sr.
(Image: Sarah J. Glover)

The harder I work, the luckier I get. I’ve lived out this mantra for my entire business life, and it’s still as true today as it ever was. It’s also a powerful mindset to adopt if you want to succeed in your business or chosen profession. This is especially true when it comes to establishing strong, resilient relationships necessary to grow your business and create wealth.

Why is it so important to remember this, at this particular time? Because we live in an age of technology that is practically miraculous to me, all built around the promise of driving productivity and profitability with ease and convenience—much of it remotely, from your phone or another mobile device. Automated e-mail marketing systems, search engine optimization, logistics systems, customer relationship management, and other tech-driven processes are now the reality of operating even the most fledgling startups.

As my son and black enterprise CEO Earl Jr. persistently evangelizes to audiences across the country (including via his Executive Memo column), it is critical that African Americans—entrepreneurs in particular—accept, embrace, and leverage these and other new technologies in order to avoid obsolescence and remain competitive. I agree with and applaud both his message and his fervor in delivering it, but it’s important to never forget immutable rules of business success that remain even in the face of rapid technological change.

The first, and foremost, of these rules is this: You still have to go out and get the business—it is not just going to come to you. The foundation of all business transactions—from a corporation choosing your business as a preferred vendor to an angel choosing to invest in your startup, to a customer choosing your establishment as the favorite family dinner spot—relies on your willingness to go out of your way to make a personal connection, the kind that can only be done face-to-face. That’s still how deals are closed, sales are secured, and client loyalty is established.

Today’s technology can help you service existing relationships, but it can’t help you to establish them to begin with, and it alone can’t keep them healthy and fruitful. You can’t do it from your mobile device, in the comfort of your own office or home—you have to get up, get out, and show up where the business is. What my son has told our sales team since phones were only for talking, still applies now that mobile devices do everything from e-mail and texts to tracking business expenses and making short films: You don’t give good phone. It’s still about personal relationships, built through face-to-face engagement—the old-fashioned definition of networking.

Why? Because people are still most likely to do business with people who they feel a connection with, who they like, who they feel treat them with respect and importance. Nothing makes a person feel more important than another person taking the time and making the effort to meet them where they are. This is a major reason why, despite Black Enterprise having evolved into a digitally focused, multiplatform media company, live events such as our upcoming Women of Power Summit remain the most robust part of our business. They enable the kinds of face-to-face interactions and personal connections that produce partnership, collaboration, and mutual success.

So, be a master of e-mail marketing. Follow and engage with your most influential connections on social media. Embrace everything that technology has to offer. But don’t believe for a moment that any of that is a substitute for investing time, energy, and attention engaging with people. Take them seriously, treat them well, and make them feel they are important to you and that you know it—because they are. If you are a CEO or founder who thinks you don’t have enough time to do this, you need to delegate some of the other stuff you are doing—or find a technology solution—that will give you the time.

Technological ease and convenience have their place, but trust me: The harder you work at proactively pursuing the business, the luckier you’ll get.