The Heart of the Start, Part 4

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People need people, and that's a fact. The home you live in, the food you eat, and the money you make are all possible because of other people. Even if you lived on a deserted island and could hunt for food and build a shelter, you would likely go insane because you had no one to connect with, hence Tom Hank's volleyball friend in "Castaway". 

In any startup, your users ultimately determine the profitability of your product. How you form the relationship between your product and other people determines the customer, and without the customer your product would cease to exist. So at the end of the day, a successful business is all about relationships. And all positive relationships are built on the foundation of trust. 

At LeWeb this year, Chris Brogan, author of "Trust Agents", talked about the inherent role of trust in any successful startup. He believes that trust is a currency and that establishing an exchange of trust is ultimately what brings value to your product. This in a way makes the actual product you are selling less relevant than the type of relationship you are creating with your network of users. 

This may seem like an obvious concept: create good relationships with the people you need. But the way you establish and manage these relationships makes the difference between a person who buys your stuff and a person who buys into you. Getting people on board with what you are about, beyond your product of the moment, comes from understanding the principles of relationships based on trust:

Don't Sell:
There is nothing more contagious than passion paired with belief. If you believe in your product and speak about it with genuine passion then you will never need to sell to anyone.

Have integrity: 
Integrity is more than just being truthful and well intentioned. Integrity is about being true to yourself, representing yourself in the world and in business in a way that is a direct reflection of your deep purpose. People are great bullshit detectors, and when who you're not in synch with what you're pitching, then they are going to be turned off by your insincerity.

Give First:
The best way to establish trust when you meet someone is to open yourself up and give something. Say hello and give a compliment, or your help, or give them your ear and actually listen. Don't go around thinking about what you can get from people to make you successful, think about what you can give to make others succeed. 

According to Brogan, you live and die by your network. So honor the relationships you form with everyone and maintain them with meaningful interactions. Be a great connector and people will trust your reputation. Be available and people will trust your loyalty. Be consistent and people will trust your integrity. Keep meeting new people and remember that you never know who could end up being the most valuable connection you have.

Sometimes the most obvious concepts of relationship building get lost when money comes into play. However, the most successful startups keep it real, and understand that it is a people business. It's as simple as people buy from people they like, people invest in people they trust.

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Great advice ;)

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This page contains a single entry by Margot Hulings published on December 24, 2009 2:04 AM.

The Heart of the Start, Part 3 was the previous entry in this blog.

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Avatar is the next entry in this blog.

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