Jon Giganti

9 Rules for Building Meaningful Relationships

Hey, it’s Monday here on StartupFlavor! That means we have another solid guest post for your enjoyment. Last week, we heard from Mick Hagen. Mick actually just announced today on Twitter that he is going to be launching a new startup soon. That’ll be cool to watch. His post last week, ‘The Fear of Failure’ was quite the motivator. Great to see him practice what he preached in that post. Go get em’ Mick!

This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Jon Giganti. Jon is the founder of 1440, a site dedicated to helping others achieve optimal performance in work and life. He has twelve years experience working in business development, primarily selling technology solutions to Fortune 500 companies. In his spare time, he’s the VP of Development for a Columbus-based non-profit, Creative Living, which provides independent living for adults with spinal cord injuries. Jon’s writing has been published on GTD Times, a popular site dedicated to all things GTD (Getting Things Done). A former division one college soccer player, Jon is also a CrossFit enthusiast and marathon runner.

So, without further adieu, enjoy the Monday guest post by Jon Giganti: 9 Rules for Building Meaningful Relationships.

“It’s not personal, it’s business.”

This quote bothers me (hence, the line through it). I cringe when I hear Donald Trump say this, or anyone else for that matter. It’s so old school. I’ve been through many a sales training that talks about keeping relationships with clients purely professional. The “experts” say that getting too close to your client (or even colleagues) will hurt your ability to do business. They say that, especially in sales, your negotiations will be impacted in a negative way the closer you are to someone. This is ridiculous. The better, more personal relationship you have with someone, the easier it is to have difficult conversations. Mutual respect and trust is already built. You will find ways to make any situation a win-win, or even increase the pie. How?

On to the rules.

1. Build Relationship Capital When you invest money, what happens? For the most part, it grows. The more you put in, the more it grows over time. The same goes for relationships. You give before you get. The more you invest, the more you’ll be able to receive from the relationship. Of course, sincerity is key. Don’t give just to get.

2. Listen First The saying goes, “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Stephen Covey, in 7 Habits, talks about seeking to understand before being understood. Live this. People love to talk, especially about themselves. Listen to their stories. Ask questions. Open ended, mostly. Your time will come to talk.

3. Build Trust Early The earlier you can build trust, the better off you’ll be. Deliver when you say you’re going to. Be sincere. Look for problems you can solve. Listen. These will significantly impact the trust you’ll build and the fruits of your labor will pay off in the long run.

4. Pick Up the Damn Phone In today’s technology-driven society, communication is becoming more and more electronic. While efficient and a really positive step in the scale of relationships, it makes it tough to build those trusted relationships that are built with live conversations. Next time you go to send an email to someone, think about picking up the phone instead. It’s usually a brief conversation (many times shorter than the time it takes to compose an email). You know what’s even better? Meet with them in person. In the office, with a friend, go see a client.

5. Be Proactive Is there someone you’ve always wanted to meet? Don’t be afraid to reach out. You’d be surprised at the response you’ll get. My friend Scott was shopping for an engagement ring for his future wife and sent a letter to Warren Buffett asking for his advice (Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns a jewelry store). Scott received a letter back the next day, personally from Mr. Buffett. He got to meet him live at one of Berkshire’s annual meetings and it’s now a staple of his yearly travel.

6. Break Bread This is such a great way to get to know people. The favorite part of my job in business development is entertaining and going out to a nice dinner (the steaks and wine are an added plus!). This is where relationships are solidified and you get to know someone more intimately. Don’t be too business-focused in out of the office situations like this. No one likes someone who can’t break away from the business talk.

7. Follow Up Quickly Under promise, over deliver. Live this. Even if you know you can get something to someone by the end of the day, commit to getting something in the next couple of days. This way, when you follow-up later in the day, you’ve exceeded their expectations. Or, how about after a meeting? A quick email (same day) to say thanks. Better yet, send a handwritten thank you note. This will go a long way toward separating you from the pack.

8. Ping Often Five conversations that are ten minutes long are more valuable than one fifty minute conversation. Consistent contact builds trust and momentum. Find ways to reach out to customers and colleagues. An article that may be of interest or a link to site about a competitor are great ways to accomplish this. In today’s world, doing this is simple. Take the time!

9. Don’t be the Networking Schlep You’ve met these people. It’s like a gun fight. As soon as you meet them, they pull out their business card. Don’t be that person. Connect with people, but don’t make it superficial. Don’t spend too much time with one person. Work the room. If you meet one person, don’t be afraid to introduce them to someone else you’ve met. I’ve found that connecting two people who don’t know each other is one of the most rewarding things I can do.

We need to flip the motto mentioned at the start of this post. What about “It’s not business, it’s personal.” Why not? As I said, the more trust that’s developed in any relationship, the more meaningful and mutually beneficial it will be. Think about your relationships.

Are you building them the right way?

Do you give before you get?

Are you growing your trusted network?

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About Jon Giganti

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  • Ian Turvill

    Jon: What a great set of tips for the budding or even the experienced businessman! Nice work. Cheers, Ian.

    • Hi Ian,

      Thanks so much for the feedback and kind words. Have a great one!


  • You’ve integrated your 9 rules for building relationships so they flow from one into the next one. Great writing and an interesting subject.

    If I had to pick just one I would say “follow up quickly” and over deliver. When I enter a new relationship with someone, whether business or personal, it’s important to let this person know how their needs will be met.

    In my business as an artist this is a must rule. Original art is considered a luxury, and especially in this economy, it’s very important to be swift and over deliver. This can be as simple as finishing and delivering the work earlier than promised or a frame upgrade.

    Doing this ensures that my patron is happy and we grow a meaningful, trusting network.

    • Hi Ellene. Really appreciate the kind words. First off, congrats on being an artist. I’ve always admired your craft. I agree – you can’t overstate following up on time (or quicker) as a key part, especially early on. I’ve dealt with a lot of artists who are great at their craft but don’t get the business aspect (aka follow up). You are far ahead of the game! Thanks for the comments. Take care – Jon

  • Jon –

    Thank you for this great reminder!

    It seems in our society, the busier we get the more rude we become. We seem to have forgotten the simple manners we were taught as children; Please, Thank you, and Putting another person’s needs before our own.

    I look forward to your next article.

    • Hi Belinda,

      Thanks for the comments. Yeah, we keep getting busier it seems, so the way to differentiate ourselves is to stay true to those simple manners you mentioned. It’s not rocket science. Please, thank you and putting another person’s needs first – you hit the nail on the head. Especially # 3 – always give before you get – it’s a great motto to keep in mind.


  • Great post.

    I too always cringe when I hear the “it’s just business” line.

    It just seems like people’s excuse to be a jerk, when really you get more long-term business from being a nice guy.

    • Hi John,

      Absolutely agree. I takes time to build long-term relationships, but done the right way and it’s a great thing. Nice guys definitely don’t finish last in this day and age. Thanks for the comment!


  • Trust is a big factor in building relationships.

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