Bruce Hill tells the story of how he used LinkedIn to build real, valuable relationships in another continent. I also found Bruce’s story particularly fascinating because it echoes one of the ideas we introduced in The Virtual Handshake, which is that our collective experience with internet dating has laid the groundwork in our collective consciousness that trusted business relationships can be built virtually. Here’s Bruce’s story:
I was sitting at my computer today thinking of my plans for 2008 and how important LinkedIn has become in my business life. I maintain a large number of business contacts on it and I have built most of my recent business relationships either directly or indirectly from its use. I know there are many who have not been able to make LinkedIn actually “work” for them, but I have and I suspect as time goes by more and more users will feel the same now that the site has gained or is gaining “critical mass”.
As I sat here tonight I reflected on how and why I originally started several years ago. Originally I got an invite from someone I knew fairly well, but I did not act on it right away since I was not familiar with the service and did not want to be bothered.
As some months went by the invitation which I had not deleted got my attention. One night, not having much to do, I said to myself: “What the heck” and I accepted it and built a small profile. In the coming months I added a few friends and then did some research which began to interest me. Originally I did not take it too seriously and connected with no particular direction. It was an interesting game.
As I learned more about the potential I added more connections with some objectives in mind to make my network connections not random but rather to make them useful to me in business as well as having some “value” and “quality” to and for others (at least within my industry) who connect with me. To be honest it was still not a serious effort but more of an interesting diversion.
HOWEVER, things changed for me about 3 years ago. I met a great gal in Brazil through another online networking system In that case, InternationalMatch.com. Ok, I have become something of an expert on seeking an international personal relationship, but that is a story for another day (or you can write to me directly if you have questions or advice on THAT topic!) The long and the short of it I began to develop a relationship and it blossomed after a number of trips to South American and we decided to marry.
Initially, not being too familiar with the process of bringing someone here and the time involved I thought it might take a year to be together (it takes mush less, but I didn’t know that at the time).
Not wanting to be separated for a year, I thought “What the heck, why don’t I just move to Brazil.” Well, I thought having a job there might be helpful since I like to “eat”, but how could I do that and also take advantage of the experience I have built over a long career and also since I didn’t know anyone in Brazil nor speak Portuguese, it could be quite a challenge!
I made it a priority to build a network in Brazil and South America which could provide me the contacts to build a career where I knew no one professionally and that I had only visited occasionally as a tourist. It took a lot of time, but I HAD MOTIVATION. Not unusual in that situation! As it turned out, it took much less time for me to get her here than I thought and we were married two years ago.
However, I DID build the relationships and I COULD have gone and been successful. It was after this experience that I realized the power of LinkedIn – if I could build “real world” relationships in a place thousands of miles from me with absolutely no initial “face-to-face” contacts, then what were the possibilities where I have a very large number of real contacts as a base to build around.
Well, since then LinkedIn has become a very important and, in fact, an integral part of my regular business relationships and “deal-making” I have a very targeted strategy to building my network now and it is working very well.
I have no need for “dating sites” anymore since I married a great gal, but as part of THAT process I became a true BELIEVER in the value of LinkedIn in the “real” world. It works!!! FOR REAL!!
In a follow-up conversation, Bruce offered me some additional insights:
When we first met in virtual space, neither my wife nor I spoke the same language – she spoke no English and I spoke no Portuguese. Our initial communication was enabled through on line translation of e-mails and instant messaging – again technology at work.
Don’t you think it amazing that in this age two people could meet separated by thousands of miles who do not speak the same language, develop a meaningful relationship and ultimately form a life partnership in this way? It is now becoming routine. By extension, then, the LinkedIn site (and others business networking sites) offer the same ability to form relationships of true and lasting value, the nature of the relationship and its motivation are just different.