Daily Conversations Saved My Life

Back in the days when I had dozens of employees, I would ask lots of open-ended questions during the interview process.  One of my favorite questions was:

“Tell me about a time when you had to make a big change in your life.”

One time, during an interview with a man named “Michael” I asked this question and his answer not only landed him the customer service job for which he was applying, it also reinforced something I learned years ago about human behavior.

Michael started his answer cautiously:

“Well, when I was in my twenties, my sister passed away suddenly. Both my parents died when I was a child and my grandmother raised us. My sister’s passing left me all alone in the world. Trying to fill the need for belonging, I fell in with a bad crowd and began drinking a lot.

It got to the point where I had to have a drink first thing in the morning just to steady my nerves and then I drank throughout the day just to get by.

Every day was the same.  I’d wake up and have a drink. Then I’d go to a local market and buy some food for the day, and more booze, and I’d sit at home and drink until I passed out while watching TV.

One of the things I became good at was disguising the fact that this was my routine. I drank vodka so there was hardly any odor. I always shaved and showered before going out to the market and liquor store. And I became smart about how I spoke so people couldn’t tell I was impaired (at least early in the morning).

I had to walk through a small park in order to get to the market.

One day, walking through the park I saw a man sitting on a bench, under a small gazebo. He looked up at me and smiled. I nodded and smiled back. As time passed, I started noticing him more often. He was there every day, just sitting and staring into the distance. His glance always caught mine and we began exchanging greetings.

I guess it was about three or four weeks after I first noticed him, our greeting exchange turned into a conversation. The next day, the man invited me to sit next to him.

Having no particular place to go, and nothing to do, I welcomed the opportunity.

My conversations with this man were often long. Sometimes lasting an hour or more.  This was time that I spent completely distracted from my mission – which was essentially to drink myself to death.

As the length of our daily conversations grew, so did the clarity I had in my life. One day after talking for hours, the man invited me to join him on a walk. This trip ended as we parted company at the entrance to the basement of a church. The man said he had to attend a meeting there. As I turned to walk away, my friend of now about four months, invited me to join him.

That was my first alcoholics anonymous meeting. It was five years and fifteen days ago.

These days I run a couple of different meeting groups. I’ve been a sponsor for a few different people. And each morning I sit in that park. On that same bench. I sit there in case someone wanders through and needs someone to talk to.

Those daily conversations saved my life.”

Michael, in his articulate answer to this interview question, crystalized something for me. Something powerful.

As a professional – someone who provides advisory services to businesses and individuals – your role is to have conversations. And sometimes these conversations alone are of so much value to your clients, they will pay you simply to have the ability to stay connected.

What does this mean for you? What does it mean for your ability to build and develop a business?

It means everything.

Clients come to me wondering why their business is broken. They wonder why, with all their credentials and with all their success over the years, they haven’t been able to build a business that is sustainable in good times and in bad.

Well, here’s the truth: You’ve been focusing on the wrong thing.

Instead of focusing on building a book of business, you should have been focusing on building and collecting relationships. This means you focus on dozens of individual conversations.

That’s what this podcast and this article is all about.  Each day I come into your world and invite you to have a conversation with me.  Sometimes I spend our time together teaching you something.  Sometimes I entertain you. Sometimes I do both.

And you should be doing the same thing with your clients.  Here’s how:

Monthly Letters to Clients, Evangelists and Prospects

Each month, sit down and write a letter to your audience. Share some new information with them. Give them some guidance. Tell them a story or two.

Weekly Email

Set up a weekly version of the letter to your clients. This is closer to a conversation than an informational broadcast. You can engage your audience and invite them to connect back with you.

Daily Podcast and/or Video

If you really want intimacy with your audience, you’ll communicate with them each day. This is your chance to help the most people. Educate, inform and entertain them but most importantly, connect with them on a personal level. Share stories that are special and important to you.  Listen to their feedback and adjust. But most importantly, remember that frequency of communication builds trust.

Some people won’t want this type of relationship but the people who are your most important relationships will love it.

This is the foundation of all relationships and it is the foundation of your business. Conversations can save your life and they will help you build your business.