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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Focus On What Matters:Building Business Relationships

By Terry L. Brock

Dateline: Panama City, Panama I’m in this hot-bed of free trade and enterprise called Panama as I type this. What a glorious place to do business and to live. Panama is nestled in Central America and holds the undisputed titled as hub of business activity in the region. I’m certainly impressed with it. Let’s see it has 1) Very low taxes, 2) Very low government regulation, 3) Beautiful women (!), 4) Excellent quality medical and dental care, and 5) The national beers sell for about 50 cents a can!! I think this is called paradise! Whoo Hoo!

The other night I had dinner as a guest of the El Salvador Embassy and Lillian Diaz Sol at the Panama Canal. I had to marvel at what was built here over 100 years ago to facilitate commerce between the Atlantic and Pacific, (Visit my website at to see video of how this marvel works). Today ships are lined up to go through the Canal 24/7 and it is a never-ending hustle-bustle of business activity.

This flurry of peaceful, international commerce got me thinking about how you and I can build our own businesses using these principles. Peace. Trade. Openness to others. This is what worked over 100 years ago when Teddy Roosevelt worked to get the Panama Canal built. It has worked all the time that the canal has been open through two world wars and countless battles raging around the world. The principles of Relationship Marketing apply to this for you and me.

I think Benjamin Franklin had it right when he advocated that the foreign policy of the US should be, “Commerce with all, war with none.” I won’t begin to get into the discourse of where we are in today’s interconnected world, conflicts, etc. I’ll leave that up to those much more knowledgeable in that area than me. However, I do see principles for you and me in our business.

Here are some principles that seem to work through the centuries, which can help us as we build business relationships.

1. Focus on what matters long-term. Focus your energies on what matters and what lasts. The current news of the moment will pass. That “breaking news” story that grabs attention and has people glued to the TV this moment, will be disdained next week. Suppose they showed an hour-long recording of a hot news story from a year ago, would anyone be interested? What about last week? I’d dare say there would be little interest. Even yesterday’s news is considered “cold” by those of us in the news business.

Yet, the time-honored principles of growing a business by the fundamentals last. Yes, we have current social networking sites that are hot. Whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Namyz or whatever new social network has emerged, there is a principle that matters more. Connect with people. Get to know them. Get to know what motivates them and moves them. Social networking is a logical extension of the human desire to be with people.

I remember the classic Star Trek episode called “Space Seed” with guest star Ricardo Montelbaum. This episode eventually led to the movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In that classic episode the crew of the Enterprise had discovered a ship of 20th Century world conquerors who were in suspended animation. When brought back to life, they tried to take over the Enterprise. You’ll have to watch the episode to find out what happened, but I’ll give you a clue--- Captain Kirk was WAY cool in handling the situation!

In that episode the character of Khan remarked how technology changes, but human nature stays the same. This is profound. You can get detoured being the most “up on the news” in your area. Practically speaking, who cares that you know the most about the current conflict in Outter Slobovia and the conflict between the Ugamakers and the Doolywags? What matters more is how you can benefit the lives of customers --- buyers --- to help them achieve their own goals and wishes. This is real pragmatic living.

No we don’t stick our heads in the sand and ignore reality. Be aware, but don’t try to be the expert. Focus on how you can help people satisfy their own desires and you’ll be far better off than “being current” with the news of today.

2. Think Internationally. Don’t focus only on one locale. Think about the world and how forces interact and create opportunities. Learn at least one other language. Learn about customs and traditions in other areas. This has been a hallmark of successful people through the centuries.

3. Educate Yourself in the Classics. By “the classics” I don’t mean just the great works of literature. Yes, these are important, I would say vital, to have exposure to these for a well-educated person. You are I are business people. We need to saturate our minds with the classics of great marketing and business thought. Read the works of Peter Drucker, Claude Hopkins, Robert Collier, Joe Sugarman, Dan Kennedy and others. Find those who have made significant and lasting impressions in business and study what they say. No, they don’t all say great things every time. Sometimes you’ll disagree with them. However, that is good also. Think. Use your mind and get educated in what matters --- how to help customers achieve their goals and build quality, profitable business relationships.

Yes, Panama has a lot of good to show us how to conduct business in the 21st Century based on the principles of 20th Century commerce. As we grow and learn, conducting peaceful business with many internationally, we become better ourselves. Relationship Marketing is about connecting with people and bringing value to them. These principles will help you in your business.

Terry Brock is an international marketing coach and columnist who helps businesses market more effectively, leveraging technology. He shows busy professionals how to squeeze more out of their days using time-honored rules and practical technology tools. He can be reached at 407-363-0505, by e-mail at or through his website at