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February 18 2014

The New Wealth, It's You

The new wealth is not your personal income, your bank balance, nor your stock options.

This new wealth is not your home equity, your net worth, nor your share of business ownership. 

The new wealth is you. 

This new form of wealth can be found rooted in what we all refer to as LinkedIn. But the power of LinkedIn, as an example, has to possess more than its natural 'roots.' It needs roots, soil, watering, nurturing, and attention — to grow. And that is precisely when LinkedInthe tool, will become LinkedIn, part of your valued and valuable extended professional family.

LinkedIn may be the largest professional association in the world today, but it will take you to turn it into true relationship wealth. Building relationship wealth, in turn, is what I would call‘LinkedIn-to-the-second-power.’ 

You don't do business with governments or companies, or even communities or groups. You do business with people. The people are everything. 

Without the ‘stickiness’ that comes from investing your own time, energy, and genuine interest in others, you don’t actually have a relationship with someone. You just have a contact.

In turn, you aren’t actually relationship building, you’re just networking. A ‘what do I get’business plan for life won’t work. 

Think about who shows up to a traditional ‘networking reception.’ Folks who all have basically one thing on their mind -- what can you do for me? They are all selling. 

With rare exception, these networking receptions turn into a sea of people handing business cards to people, who are in turn trying to hand a business card back to them. Everyone basically waiting for their turn to talk, to sell, to whatever. All of that is fine, but it’s not business. And it is not how real business gets done. 

You will never see anyone of any real substance at a traditional networking reception. If it’s not a real meeting of genuine intent, or an opportunity dedicated to genuine, authentic relations building, then you are just wasting your time. The bottom line is we do business with people we know, trust and like. 

Everyone seems to be running around these days in business, talking about ‘making money.’ It’s the wrong conversation. Money is of course a necessity of life, but life is not about making money. Business is actually not about making money either; principally or exclusively. 

Making money is the by product of running a great business. Business is about creating something of (sustainable) value. And it’s all rooted in very real relationships. 

You will never see a my friend former President Bill Clinton, or a Warren Buffett at a networking reception. 

You will never see the CEO of Wells Fargo John Stumpf, or a CEO of a Fortune 1000 company, at a networking reception. 

You will never see the chief of human resources for say Hyatt Hotels, a friend of mine, at a networking reception. 

It’s not just not where they go, it’s that this is just not how real business is done

Life is all about relationships. About caring, for others. 

Things that are sustainable are not a ‘what’s in it for me proposition,’ but rather a ‘what’s in itfor us proposition.' 

Decision Making: Think about any important decision you have made lately. 

You needed to handle some important, maybe even delicate and sensitive legal business. My guess is you didn’t just call up a lawyer from the Internet or the phone book. You called someone you know and trust, or you asked others you know and trust for a recommendation — to someone you hopefully can get to know, and trust. 

You had a major surgery decision to make, concerning yourself or a loved one. If you have relationship wealth, you simply rang up a specialist in your relationship circle that you knew and respected. If you didn’t know an expert physician in the field in question, you selected the best physician you could and scheduled a ‘consultation’ with them. Let's face it -- you were checking them out. You were trying to get a read on this person, as a person. You were doing a gut check, on ethics, integrity, likability, whether they seemed competent, and most importantly, whether they were confident about your procedure. You wanted to know whether they cared, or could be made to. You were building a relationship. And if that meeting gut-check didn’t go well, irrespective of credentials on paper, the smart person just walks away. 

You were hiring a nanny or someone to take care of your children. You definitely want a referral here, but at the least, you require a face to face meeting. If relationships were not important, you would simply hire someone based on credentials and experience alone. But you want to make sure you are both on the same page. That you are really comfortable with the person. 

The most powerful aspect of relationship wealth is what happens when you reach the top rungs of business or your profession. And it is a completely unarticulated art form. No one is going to explain it to you

There is no manual for this, and it is not written down in any policies or procedures document. Those at the top assume, if you don’t get it, then maybe you don’t belong. It's a self selection process. 

You see a corporate board room, filled with 65 year-old white men. Someone might assume this is racism and discrimination. In most cases it is not racism. But it actually is a version of discrimination, but not generally the hate-filled kind. 

It’s no different than you, in this particular example being a Latino or Black person, and hosting a party at your home. A week later, who shows up in all of the photos you took? No one should be surprised if they find a bunch of Latino and Black folks in those photos. Because in this example, these are your relationships that you chose to invite into your home. It’s who you know, in this example. By the way, I would highly commend anyone with a diverse group of friends, and recommend to everyone else to go get some. Get to know those you might otherwise not. It will prove invaluable in your life. 

The world is a big place, until it is a small place (who you know).

In the example here, the board room is filled with 65 year-old white men because those are the folks that the chairman or CEO knows. We can make the point that he really needs a broader group of friends, and that would be true, but for the moment these are the facts of life.

These are the people he grew up with, or went to college with, or does business with, or hangs with. These are his friends, and these are the people he or she knows and trusts. These are his or her relationships. And relationships (trust, comfort and confidence), unfortunately, very often trumps competence.

I have seen idiots and fools run countries and companies, and brilliant people who are homeless. 

Life is not just about being smart. Life is about developing genuine, authentic life bonds with people. 

Am I saying that life is exclusively about who you know? Not at all. That actually would describe be a very sad world. Competence does matter. I for one don’t hire dummies in my companies. Competence is a pre-requisite. But what I am saying as a CEO is, if I am traveling all the time, then I will want a chief of staff back at home office who first and foremost I trust and have a high level of personal comfort with, and confidence in. And I do. Now, how do you put that job description down on paper? You can’t. You don’t. It’s an is, as I like to say.

I will assume the person that I am most comfortable with is also competent. What she may lack in one area or another (my chief of staff of 21 years happens to be female), I will in-fill or patch around. I hire the additional skill set that I believe may be missing or additive to the organization. Skills, you can hire or somehow acquire for your organization. Trust and confidence you cannot. Those assets are secured exclusively through the powers of relationship. 

Finally here, consider how five generations of one family have attended say, a Yale University. Respectfully, it's not just that everyone in this family are super smart. You cannot be an absolute dummy and make it at Yale University, but a five-generation legacy at any given high-level school, university or club, is also about having good relationships. Starting with the folks in admissions, and in this example, the head office at a Yale would also help.

Many voices often weigh in on decisions such as ‘admissions.’ The unarticulated ‘process’ is also about them knowing you, respecting you, and them wanting you with them. That theywant you — to be part of their extended family.

‘Admissions,’ in this example, is as much about an informal email or a well placed phone call, as it is (exclusively) about GPA, or formal application 46D, which you dutifully completed and turned in. 

Life is a composite, not a checking of boxes. 

Life is not a transaction, it’s a relationship.

Real business is mutual. 

I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down to dinner with a CEO, discussing no business whatsoever, only to leave dinner with one of our largest partnership agreements or commitments ever, for my organization. But the key here is, this was not a game to me, or the person on the other side of the table. There was and is genuine warmth here. It is mutual.

Maybe not everyone can get rich, but getting rich is really over-rated. 

Being wealthy though, is much more valuable and sustainable. It can last a lifetime. 

More so, it is something that most everyone can acquire. Starting with you.

Building new, sustainable wealth for a generation.

Let’s go.

John Hope Bryant is the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and is the only 2010-2012 bestselling business author in America who is also African-American. His newest book, due out May, 2014, is HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISM, and will be published byBerrett Koehler Publishing).

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