for the hippos

Our framework to making friends in business

Heyo! Tam here again.

Last week we talked about the key to networking: it’s not about collecting contacts. It’s about making friends.

Why? Because humans do business with people they respect and trust.

And who do we respect and trust? Our friends.

But how specifically do we turn our contacts into friends?

Below are 5 steps you can take to make friends in business (and in life).

Let’s dive in.

Ask if they want to meet

Entrepreneur Noah Kagan tweeted an amazing cold email he received recently.

Noah immediately said yes and they met the following week.

What did Arjun do right?

  • Gave a compliment - Arjun shared a true story on the impact Noah had on his career.
  • Kept the message succinct - Arjun shared how he knew Noah, a little bit about himself, and had a clear ask.
  • Made it personal - Arjun tailored his ask to what Noah cared about: tacos, a walk, or a workout.

Notice how Arjun did not hard sell his product/service. Arjun did not ask to get something from Noah.

Arjun took the “friend” approach that we recommended last week. When asked about the most compelling part of the message that made Noah say yes…

“You can tell he put a lot of effort in it and made it exciting for me to want to respond.”

Tip: Put effort into crafting your initial message. Even if it isn’t perfect, it shows how much you care. Use our templates if you need a starting point, and hit send.

Connect 1:1

All good friendships start after you meet 1:1 for a coffee or Zoom.

This is a chance to have deeper conversations (instead of surface-level convos that happen in a group meeting or hang session) and see how you like each other.

Kind of like a first date, but with friends.

Arjun and Noah sharing a drink in Austin

Arjun and Noah sharing a drink in Austin (source)

Beware: the biggest mistake people make at this stage is to go straight into talking about business.

They ask questions like:

  1. How much money have you raised?
  2. What’s your MRR and ARR?
  3. Can you do this [BIG ASK] for me?

We get it. You’re excited about your company and want to talk about it.

But by doing this, you’ve framed the conversation more towards a potential business transaction, which makes the relationship imbalanced… like one person holds more power than the other.

I promise you that conversations around business will naturally come up as your friendship develops.

For now, take a deep breath and relax.

Instead of asking about their employee headcount, ask questions to get to know the other person as a human.

  1. Why did they want to start their business?
  2. What do they geek out about outside of work?
  3. What are their personal hopes, dreams, and fears?

When I meet somebody new, my goal is to understand how they became the person they are today. I’m interested in their life story, not just their career path.

This frames the conversation towards being friends, making the relationship feel personal.

Find ways to be of service

After meeting someone, I always take two minutes to scribble down notes about our conversation.

Stuff like their current goals, recent learnings, interests, etc.

If I was an extra good listener, I might pick up on one or two things they mentioned in passing that could be opportunities for me to be of service.

Some examples:

Give introductions

I recently zoomed with a YouTuber influencer who just hit 200k subscribers. He told me one of his 3-year goals was to scale his channel to over 1 million subscribers.

After our first meeting, I quickly introduced him to a friend who had a channel with 4 million subscribers that would be happy to give him advice.

They had a lovely Zoom call together. Afterward, he thanked me profusely for the introduction and offered me an opportunity to collaborate on a video if I was ever interested.

Celebrate their big days

When I worked as right-hand man to entrepreneur Jayson Gaignard, I watched him masterfully support his community members whenever they had a big day ahead.

  • When a member launched a new book, he was the first to leave a public review on Amazon. A BIG deal for authors.
  • When a member won an award or got featured in the press, he was the first to share the news on social.
  • When a member launched a new crowdfunding campaign, he was the first to buy the product on launch day.

This was Jayon’s way of supporting the community members, much like a friend would do.

Send helpful books or articles

I reconnected with Zvi Band, an entrepreneur and a member of a community I used to run, and shared my personal reflections about climbing a (metaphorical) mountain that I no longer cared about.

After our Zoom call, Zvi sent me an article he came across that beautifully described what I was going through.

This piece wasn’t about business at all. He sent me this for my personal best interest.

Because of this, I felt closer to Zvi knowing that he is thinking about me as a HUMAN, even after I was no longer working in my community role.

Spend quality time together

You typically don’t meet somebody once and instantly become best friends.

It takes multiple in-person meetings to build a lasting relationship.

The best way I’ve found to deepen my relationships without solely having 1:1s is through two main ways.

Invite them to other events

Go with them to an event you both would enjoy.

  • If you like a particular author, go to their new book signing
  • If you like a sports event, go to one a live game together
  • If you like a specific conference, ask if they plan on attending

Host your own gatherings

The ultimate win-win situation is to be “the hub.”

This means hosting your own events and inviting a curated guest list.

One simple and effective way to do this is through Mastermind Dinners.

Imagine a small, hand-picked group of people interested in [topic of your choice], bonding over pasta and wine.

Hosting dinners like these for entrepreneurs was once my full-time job and they were an absolute blast.

We had mastermind dinners around SaaS, Raising Money, Culture, Personal Finance, Sales and more.

It was the perfect mixture of personal connection and group discussion about a topic we all cared about.

The dinners were scheduled for two hours but often lasted double that time, sometimes until the restaurant staff kicked us out.

Not only do you become closer with all the guests, they all feel more connected to you because of the new relationships they’ve made with your friends.

And chances are you’ll receive invitations from your guests as they begin to host their own events, exposing you to even more potential friends.

Repeat steps #2-4 for years

Connect 1:1. Help others. Spend quality time together.

There is obviously much more theory and nuances behind building relationships. But if you’re new to all of this, focus on these fundamentals.

How can you support, be of service, or simply celebrate your friends?

If you simply show up as your true self and be a good friend, you will be further along than 90% of people. Let me know how it turns out.