How do I work from home? That’s a good challenge. I don’t just stop showing up. That’s not going to work, so there was this partner named Dave and he had been the one who hired me. Dave was never in the office and I thought, “Dave must know how to work from home because he’s never here. He’s obviously just working from home because we’re lawyers. We bill hours, we bill hours in six minute increments.” I asked him to meet with me and HR made him do that because he was my mentor, so he had to check a box on a form somewhere, so he took me. It was funny because everybody else who’s getting mentored was going to see Blue Man Group and going to McCormick & Schmick for lunch and having drinks. He took me to the basement of our office building where there was a pop-up Starbucks and he’s like, “Ask me whatever you want.” He wasn’t a mean or rude guy, but he had important things to do and I was not one of those things most likely and he was right. I said, “How come you are a partner and everyone says you’re this great partner and everything like that, but you never are in the office? What’s going on?” He said, “People talk about that? They notice I’m not in the office?” I was backtracking because I’m thinking “I’m going to get fired at Starbucks. This is how my career ends?” I try to go off the radar and I ended up getting so far on the radar that now I’m going to get fired at Starbucks.
He puts his Blackberry down and he goes, “No, I work from home sometimes, but what I do is I focus on bringing in the deals.” I said, “How do I do that?” He went “After you worked here for long enough and you make enough connections with all the people in the industry and the investment bankers that are our clients, you play enough golf, you do enough jujitsu, you go on charity dinners, and you’re friends with all these guys, you’re playing racquetball, you’re playing squash, you just become friends with them and they’ll throw you the deals. You don’t have to worry about it.” I went, “Wait a minute, you just told me a million things I’m not doing and then said ‘You don’t have to worry about it.’ What are you talking about? I don’t know how to do any of those things.” I’m thinking I don’t know how to play squash; I better learn how to play squash, but what he was telling me was I form a bunch of relationships. I’m more valuable outside the firm that I am inside the firm because inside the firm, he can probably bill $800 an hour or $1,000 an hour as a partner. Outside the firm, he can bring in a million-dollar law deal once or twice a quarter, so his billable hour bonus, which is probably at a partner level, six figures or close to it, is nothing compared to the 5% he’s getting bringing in a million dollar law deal every once a quarter.
Why worry about billable hours when you can go do jujitsu, play golf, play squash and then go, “Bill, send me that memorandum about the real estate transaction we’re doing or the mortgage bank security pool that we’re doing for Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns.” That’s a lot easier. Instead of figuring out how to work from home so I don’t get caught, don’t get fired, after that point, I dedicated my life to “There’s another competitive advantage that I can build after having lost my other two, which were natural smarts and work ethic.” Those are both very limited but networking or relationship development was brand new. It was unlimited and even better, nobody else was thinking about it. All those junior level or mid level associates, all they were doing was grinding, which is what you have to do at a law firm, especially when you’re new: billable hours, billable hours, billable hours. I went, “I’m going to do that, but if I start to figure out how to network and create relationships now, then in five years when I need this skill set, I’ll have a five-year advantage on all these socially awkward colleagues that I have who are not ready for this.”
I had some great colleagues that were very social and I asked them about this and they went, “Just work here long enough and we meet enough people that eventually we start making deals and we’ll start to make business.” We called it rainmaking back then. They go, “We should figure this out.” Me and this group of guys who were always going out for drinks, we went “We just got to figure out how to make friends with investment bankers.” We made huge spreadsheets of who’d we go to school with? Who do we know? What I know now is that we were proactively and very deliberately creating relationships, networking and creating social capital. I thought that was going to get me to the top of the law game but what it did was take me down this path of learning about nonverbal communication, persuasion, influence, networking, and relationship development, which is far more interesting to me than law ever was.
I can imagine that it would be. First of all, it’s useful in every situation. Anytime you are around another human being, you can use those skills and it’s always different. My background is engineering and one of the ways that I escape the pile in engineering is very similar. I learned to interact with other human beings, whereas most engineers don’t like to do that. Fantastic insight, but I think it’s one of the most important competitive advantages that exists. It never goes away because most people won’t do it. Why do you think that is?
There are a couple of reasons. When I go to companies and law firms and speeches and things like that, what’s happening for me is people say, “Okay, but.” Here’s the entrepreneur pool, “I need to get my prototype going. I need to get my website going. I need to get my product launch formula ready with my team. Insert excuse here that sounds very, very, very convincing. Of course, I need a business set up before I can create relationships.” Actually it’s better to have the relationships beforehand. “Yeah, but I have no value to give because I don’t have any income or any money or anything.” It doesn’t matter. That’s not how we’re creating relationships. If I go to a company like Apple, people there go, “Yeah, but I’m so busy,” or “I know the people in my work unit and I’m not planning on leaving my work unit or my department,” or “We’re not allowed to talk to people from other companies because of trade secret stuff and they’re worried about that.” All of it is baloney. You go to an engineering firm and here’s where you get truthful answers. The scientists and the engineers at biotech firms, they go, “That sounds incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. I do not want to do that.”