It’s Not Karma, It’s Business


By Carol Roth

Interview with Tommy Spaulding (founder of the Leader’s Challenge, acts as CEO of Up With People, author of the new book It’s Not Just Who You Know and founder the Spaulding Companies, a consulting firm based in Denver).

Tommy Spaulding is the GYT (Greater Than Yourself) mentee of Steve Farber (if you are not familiar with Steve and GYT, visit Tommy shared some interesting and insightful information on the important topic of relationship capital and relationship building in business. Here are some of the highlights:

Focus on “Netgiving” Rather Than Networking: One key to Tommy’s success in being well-connected and a great networker (a word that he hates!) is his emphasis on what he calls “netgiving”. This is where you move your focus away from the traditional networking thought of “What can I get from this person?” to “How can I help/benefit this person?” He feels that by having a netgiving focus, the ROR (return on relationship) is much more prosperous than the solely networking relationships that he has. If this seems a little touchy/feely, remember, it’s not karma, it’s business!

Law of Random Relationships: In Tommy’s experience, anyone out there that you meet-a bartender, a random person in a coffee shop etc., can have a tremendous impact on your life and profession. We have a tendency towards qualifying people that we meet based on profession, status, where they live, education etc. when in reality, anyone can greatly and positively influence your life, your business and your finances. You never know what string of connections or circumstances can create something significant for you, so be open to every new relationship.

Building Relationships is Like Kissing: According to Tommy, just like kissing, the style of building relationships is personal and anyone can be good at it (although I have to disagree with Tommy on the kissing frontĹ  there are some really bad kissers out there). Anyways, even if you are more of an introvert, you are still in a great position to build genuine relationships. Being more understated can be used to your advantage because you are not seen as a “schmoozer” or “smooth talker”. If you aren’t socially inclined, here’s a great way to approach new people: when first meeting someone, break the ice by focusing on others- ask questions about the other person (and, of course, genuinely listen for the answers). Oh, and another way that building a relationship is like kissing- you want to get to know someone for a little while before you stick your tongue down their throat, so don’t ask for favors (business or “otherwise”) when you have known someone for all of five minutes.

Seek “Advice” Not “Business”: When meeting with anyone from shareholders to investors to future employees, Tommy says to shift your focus away from “How can I sell this person” to seeking authentic advice and opinions from them. By getting their input and advice, you get their “buy in” and then they are more vested in you and your endeavors. This is exactly why the crowdsourcing model works so well for many businesses!

The Importance of Making Time for Personalization: It’s all about discipline! Tommy carves out a specific amount of time everyday for personalization- writing hand-written notes to people that he met that day or clipping out a newspaper article that may be of interest to one of his friends and including a personal note with it. In a world of emails and technology based communication, Tommy’s personalized touch has really made him stand out and has been a key component of his tremendous business success. I think we can all use this tactic more effectively-going old school is sort of a novel way to set ourselves apart these days!

I want to thank Tommy again for these great insights and appreciate his spirit. I hope that you enjoyed this interview. Tommy’s book, It’s Not Just Who You Know, is available everywhere now.

Investment banker, business strategist and deal maker Carol Roth has helped solopreneurs to multinational corporations raise more than $1 billion in capital, complete hundreds of millions of dollars in M&A transactions, secure high-profile licensing and partnership deals and more. Her Unsolicited Business Advice blog at was recently named as one of the Top 10 small business blogs online. She’s the author of the forthcoming book, The Entrepreneur Equation. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth