One of the things Anne Mayfield remembers most about working for a large international consulting firm is how effective an organization can be when super-intelligent people take the time to mentor young professionals. She spent eight years as one of those lucky young professionals at Arthur D. Little (ADL) and in that time watched a senior colleague who used his expertise on the stand in the IBM anti-trust trial for 40+ days and still had time to mentor her. Anne took to heart not only how hard her colleague worked, but also how important “trust” established from relationships made with colleagues was for success. She brought that knowledge with her when she started her own consulting firm in 1987. She’s thankful that she did.
Most of Mayfield Consulting’s first clients were fellow consultants whom Anne had made lasting connections with at that big international firm where she got her start. Anne credits her ability to establish those relationships and leverage them with not just the success of her firm but its very existence. The key, according to Anne, was that “they liked and respected my work and I respected theirs.”
So how did Anne turn that respect and those relationships into the lasting success of a profitable consulting firm? Initially located in Boston, Anne relied on that mutual respect from a former colleague who was heading up Marketing at a high-tech company. From that colleague, Anne gained a client in another tech firm, where she built even more relationships, which led to another client in a telecom firm, where she once again made contacts which led to future referrals.
When Anne moved her family and firm back to her hometown of Charlotte, NC, she continued to build on those existing relationships and developed new ones. By reaching out through her Harvard Business School (HBS) Alumni Association locally and leaning on her alumni connections, she gained a client that stayed on for eight years as Mayfield became his sales operations and marketing department before the company was bought by another PE firm for the highest EBITDA ever in the security industry. Even after he sold the company and retired, the head of that company held Anne in such high regard, he still works with her on other projects he’s involved with and recommended Mayfield to his daughter when she started her own, now successful, physical therapy practice.
Constantly nurturing those existing relationships and being open to making new connections that are a “best fit” is critical to expanding any business and has helped Mayfield Consulting succeed through the ups and downs of numerous recessions. That approach works across industries and is critical to the success of large and small companies alike.
According to Mayfield Consulting Business and Client Manager Carolyn Mauney, Mayfield has always developed their business contacts by word of mouth and networking relationships that Anne has cultivated. That network has led to either long-term Mayfield clients or many referrals. Carolyn says, “Once we’ve done a project and proven that we do great work and are reliable, we gain referrals. We can either put our strategic minds to work or become a company’s marketing arm without much risk, because they know we do great work.”
Anne could not be more thankful for those referrals and those friendships, and for all the clients that have trusted her and Mayfield Consulting to do that great work. So much of that comes from her willingness and ability to leverage her contacts and foster relationships within and outside her own firm. And she continues to pay it forward by mentoring the next generation of HBS alums in her area to network and build relationships themselves.
You can too. Mayfield Consulting’s approach to leveraging contacts and Anne’s relationship-building skills translate to firms of all sizes across all B2B industries.
Here are our B2B Relationship Building Tips:
- Network: Meet lots of people in relevant places.
- Find the “Best Fit”: Figure out who needs your expertise or whose services YOU might need down the road.
- Start Out Small: Work together first on something small; after you’ve worked with and gotten to know someone, you’ll know whether you respect their work too.
- Do Great Work:
- High-quality work, focused on the client’s objectives
- Under promise and over-deliver
- No surprises
- Nurture Your Relationships: Keep up with the contacts you have met through personal networking, a monthly blog, or a “let’s catch up” phone call.
6. Know You Can Walk Away: Sometimes once you work with someone, you decide not to work with them again – and that is fine! (And vice versa.)