Leveraging the Power of Relationships

3rd in a 5-Part Series on the Building Blocks of a Successful Startup

Bernie Grey once told me, “You want to be an angel investor? Write a check.” Bernie was one of the most active angel investors in Atlanta from 1990 through 2010. He and Sig were partners in lots of deals during that time. They helped build our technology community and influenced many entrepreneurs, including me.

Writing the First Check

I followed Bernie’s advice and wrote my first check.

I was committed. This angel investing business had to work, or I would have to find a job.

Now that I knew who I was and what I did for a living, I was ready to tell the world. The networking and relationship building began in earnest.

Going to Where They Are

I began attending all the meetings and conferences I could find in town—the Business & Technology Alliance, the Technology Executive Roundtable, the Southeast Software Association, whatever. If there was a meeting where Atlanta tech people were hanging out, I was there.

And not only did I attend, but I seized on leadership positions when I saw how I might help the community. It was through my first volunteer leadership position that I established my name in Atlanta technology.

I volunteered to lead High-Tech Month for the State of Georgia. This gave me meaningful access to everybody who was anybody in our community. This gig gave me my relationship foundation and reputation that I enjoy to this day.

Meetings, Meetings, and Meetings

In addition, I would set up breakfasts and lunches with bankers, venture capitalists, lawyers, and accountants.

I would tell the people I met all about my idea of helping experienced professional services start their own company.

Over time, I became known as the only investor in town who would finance service startups. Once this occurred, the potential entrepreneurs started showing up. Companies were formed, and dreams were achieved.

A Starving Mother’s Wisdom

I have a pastor friend and mentor who told me, “Relationships are better than meat.”

His mother told him this when they were starving in a remote Ugandan village. One of 38 children, he had no blanket until he was ten. No shoes until he was 13. They were never sure when they would get to eat. And she told him relationships should be his priority in life. It is all about people.

My idea now had legs because relationships are better than meat.

Relationships are leverage because business is about people.

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