Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the term, relational equity.
Up until a few weeks ago, I was like most of you having never heard of “relational equity”. It’s one of those things that I think we all know what it is, but we may just haven’t associated a phrase or words with the definition.
In his article on Relational Equity, Russell Hylton breaks it down best:
“Relational – Expression of a relationship over time.
Equity – Built up value over time.”
It is an investment in others. Unlike a financial investment where you expect returns of some kind whether you break even, make money, or even lose it, relational equity is an investment where you should never expect anything in return. It is a selfless endeavor that make an incredible impact on people.
Consider this example:
EyeSpeak is the agency who contributes much of the design, website work, and just general awesomeness to the nonprofit I work for. EyeSpeak is a small agency of less than 15 people, but they are incredible at what they do. One of the things they do best, however, is investing in their clients. It’s been evident since day one of my time working with them that they care not only about the success of our business, but about us as people. Everyone I have met at EyeSpeak is someone that I enjoy talking with, even if it’s not about work. They send out cards and little gifts from time to time (including a Darth Vader chocolate mold on May 4th last year). They make us feel like we are not a number or a bunch of dollar signs, but actual people. Most recently EyeSpeak went through a rebrand and as a part of that they sent us an EyeSpeak t-shirt, mug, and a bunch of other little things. Sure it’s free advertising for them, but it looks awesome and I love the brand, so of course I will wear my t-shirt when I get the chance.
And they never ask me to refer clients or tell people about their business, yet I am far more likely to refer people to EyeSpeak than just about any other agency I know because they’ve invested in me and made me feel like I matter. For that, I am a raving fan. That’s how you build relational equity, and it can be an incredibly powerful investment by any business or person. We could reduce the amount of business we do with EyeSpeak and I still believe they would treat us the same way. They invest without expectation of receiving anything in return.
More and more businesses are turning to operate in a similar fashion. Not because it’s the cool or trendy thing to do, but because it’s what consumers want. If a company sends you a birthday card and a gift card/coupon/trinket, don’t you love that personal touch? You feel loyal to that brand because they went out of their way for you. It feels like they actually care. Especially if you never told them it was your birthday. They took the initiative to discover that information on their own and act on it.
So if businesses are willing to do that with hundreds of customers, why aren’t most of us willing to do that in our personal relationships? We act like we care, but when it comes down to it we forget birthdays and anniversaries, we ignore calls & emails, and we drop the ball over and over again.
One of the issues is that we spread ourselves too thin. We know too many people and try to please them all and honestly it just can’t work. We only have so much availability and bandwidth. Instead of dropping the ball with all of these acquaintances, why not scale that number back to a manageable size and heavily invest in 50 people. Memorize birthdays or schedule them in a calendar with reminders, learn important facts, discover what makes the other person tick or what they love, and then use that information to let them know you care and will go out of your way for them. Send out birthday cards or do something else that goes well out of your way to serve them.
If you have never experienced a relationship like this you’re missing out on an incredible part of life.
I seem to be issuing a lot of challenges lately, so why change now? My challenge to you is to start investing some relational equity into the people around you. We all have friends and even best friends, but that doesn’t mean that we are truly investing in those relationships. Go out of your way to serve a friend this week. And then do it again and again. Buy them something they need without asking or expecting anything in return. Send them a hand-written card or letter. Let them know you care.
Don’t delay. Can you really afford to continue to live like knowing what you might be missing out on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!