The SOBCon “Blog It, Earn It” Discount

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SOBCon is the annual “Biz School for Bloggers” to be held once again in Chicago, May 1-3. What has always impressed me about SOBCon is the complete focus on helping participants develop viable business plans. It is also a manageable size – maximum 250 participants – with a faculty of very knowledgeable, very practical, business-focused blogging stars.

This year, as part of the preparation, SOBCon founder Liz Strauss and her colleagues have come up with an interesting challenge and a discount for those who join in.

The challenge is called “Blog It, Earn It” – i.e. earn a discount on the price of admission. And at $200 off the $795 full price, that is a very substantial discount indeed.

What do you have to do to play? You have to post something on what relationships mean to you, in business parlance the “ROI of Relationships”.

SOBcon 09I’m going to join in, even though, regretfully, I am not planning to do the long trek to Chicago. I’ll apparently be able to pass my discount on to someone else, which is nice (see the note at the end of this post for what I propose to do about passing it on) .

I could write at length about how important relationships have been and are to me: relationships with my parents, my brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, nieces, nephews, teachers, and my wonderful partner of twenty years and co-author on this blog, Suzie Cheel.

But for the purpose of this exercise I am going to concentrate on relationships in business.

And especially on why one of my key operating principles is “relationships first, then business”.

So here goes:

What Relationships Mean to Me in Business

Thinking now about what relationships mean to me in business I feel quite moved, with deep feelings of gratitude especially.

Because it seems to me that all or most of the good business I have done over the past twenty years has stemmed from and has been sustained by relationships. And I can say with confidence that where the business has been good there have been good relationships and where it has not been good there has been a problematic or sour relationship involved. Not always at the beginning, but at some point.

When I speak of business as being “good” or “bad” I am not thinking of whether it paid well or not. In fact I have sometimes been quite well paid for business that with hindsight I could well have done without.

One example of a business deal that was bad is the time, early in my consulting career, that I was consulting to a government agency and with every draft of the report we submitted we were asked to make changes. I kept thinking that with one more lot of amendments we could be done, and indeed that eventually came to pass. But in the meantime, I had developed a twinge in my back  – it only bothered me when I sat down to type. It was very painful. When the report was done and handed in, the pain went away! Weird, but true.

A well paid project, but bad business. Why? My pretty confident assessment is that, although I had a reasonable relationship with the person commissioning the report, there were others behind the scenes “monitoring” the project from the viewpoint of a particular political agenda.  So what had looked like a project initiated on the basis of a reasonable relationship foundered because there were other, hidden and – from my point of view – unreasonable relationships at work which turned the exercise into such a bad project that my body actually revolted.

Of course, I’ve endeavored at times like that to buck myself up with the old “it’s just business” comment. But what sort of a life is it to have to “put up” with things, not enjoy what you do? No thanks.

Fortunately, I have many examples of business projects, past and current, which have been based on and sustained by good relationships.

I think for example of one client where I had an ongoing consulting role and who used to turn to me and my company when specific projects came up that might otherwise have gone elsewhere. He knew that with some of these projects I would not be doing the detailed work personally, but he trusted me to put together an appropriate team or outsource the details responsibly. Financially this was very worthwhile. It was also enjoyable work because of the frank, mutually trusting relationship I had with the client.

Other work has come to me “out of the blue” because someone I knew was in a conversation with others about a project that needed my skills and knowledge, which led to my being contacted and subsequently hired.

Yes, I did tender for projects and spent hours writing submissions, but because the projects I was good at were often the ones that did not fit neatly into regular categories of consultancy, much of that submission writing was, with hindsight, a waste of time. Maybe all of it – I don’t like to dwell on that too much!

In more recent years, as a coach, author, workshop leader and speaker, business has typically, and perhaps universally, come to me via a relationship, whether a long-standing, professional network relationship or via the blogging or social media community, or from something more immediate such as someone observing me and speaking with me at an event and then talking to me about business possibilities.

These experiences, the bad ones as well as the good ones, have taught me that doing business based on (positive) relationships – and by that I mean open, honest, trusting, constructive relationships – is now the only way I want to do business.

That works for me, not only financially, but in peace of mind, mind-body health and sense of contribution, and in terms of my picture of how things should be when life goes well.

In short, Relationships First, then Business, is a principle that serves me well, first as a filter to keep out the toxic experiences before they start and then as a basis and framework for doing business happily, productively and with mutual respect.

To qualify for the discount, I need now to provide a link to this site on Twitter with the hashtag #blogiearnit. Then I propose to pass the discount on to one of our readers here. If you would like to qualify, just leave a comment, perhaps share your own story and say you would like to go in a random draw to qualify. If you are doing your own blog post to qualify for the discount, note that the offer from SOBCon ends a couple of days from now, on March 7.

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