In one way or another, I’ve been a relationship builder throughout my career. It’s what I do best — probably because I work at it every day, in every situation, with everyone I meet.
I am in the business of connecting people, businesses and communities in need with public and private sources of capital. That takes a lot of relationship building. It takes a lot of time and trust. And because we live in a global economy, and we can learn a lot from diversity, it also takes a fair amount of travel. Everyone has something to teach us. Someone from DC or Australia or Africa may have something to share that will benefit our economic development work in Ohio.
But relationship building isn’t just about getting. It’s about giving as well. It’s about being generous with your time. Exchange makes relationships work. Makes them lasting. Personal. Real and enduring. Deals come and go, but relationships go on, sometimes for a lifetime if they are mutually nurtured.
Last summer, I was honored to be among the 35 people selected to attend the Oxford University Advanced Management and Leadership Program in the UK. I began many friendships there, and learned many things about leadership and how to connect strategy to measurable performance standards from experts and critical thinkers from around the globe.
Over the past year, we alumni have stayed in touch because we value what each other thinks and says and does and observes. Earlier this month, I attended a convening at the 2015 Oxford in North America Chicago event. There were many discussions and we had ample opportunity to meet with other Oxford alumni, reconnect with old friends and introduce ourselves to new people.
In just a few weeks, I will be back at Oxford University in the UK to present my thinking to the class of 2015, and spark discussion about the necessity of pursuing inclusive capitalism. It is through discussions such as this that we can begin to know, understand and appreciate the breadth of thinking and cultural influences that shape us personally, in business and in our communities.
I hope you make the most of your travels to seek out new relationships. Meeting people from different life experiences and cultural influences will expand your thinking immeasurably and bring long-term benefit to your organization and the people you serve.
I am reminded of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” In a world where human interaction is increasingly happening online through social media and video, it’s important to be reminded of the power of simply getting together with other people. There’s real value in a spoken “Hello,” a handshake, a smile, a shared meal, a laugh, an impassioned discussion punctuated with waving hands and raised eyebrows – this is how meaningful relationships are born and nurtured, regardless of where we call home. And its value is beyond calculation.