Relationships can mean success

Business is about relationships. These relationships can be with employees, customers or potential customers and a host of others. Most people would rather deal with someone they know and trust than with a stranger. Just like the old cliché says, it is not what you know, but who you know that determines success.

So many times I have seen struggling entrepreneurs happen to mention their business problems to an acquaintance, who gets them connected with large potential customers. All this comes about because of a relationship between two people.

For this and so many other reasons, relationships are vital to each and every business, and you just never know when or where a relationship will be formed. You must constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to make connections.

About a year ago, I attended the Broward Urban League Gala as my new job with JMI has me helping minority entrepreneurs at Broward College. At the gala, they had multiple serving lines, one of which was for fresh fried catfish.

While in the catfish line, I started talking with the very nice couple ahead of me. The man’s name was Ed Key, and he was employed as an administrator at Broward College. We hit it off, so I suggested we have lunch in a couple of days.

During this lunch, I mentioned that we were coaching minority entrepreneurs and organizing a minority business conference. Without me asking, Ed put me in contact with Norm Seavers, the head of their Entrepreneurship Institute. When I met with Norm, he stepped in and agreed to allow us to hold our minority business conference at their venue and to provide so much other assistance that we needed.

I began mentoring Ed, meeting with him every month during my visits to South Florida. During one of our meetings, he brought a friend of his, Marcell Haywood, with him. Marcell is a very successful entrepreneur, the owner of a company called Dirt Pros EVS. Starting only five years ago with a $300 investment, he has grown this business to over $5 million in sales.

I was so impressed with Marcell. Though he holds a master’s degree, he does not have a formal education in business, yet he has been so successful. During lunch, I asked Marcell if he would be the keynote speaker at our conference, and he agreed.

Our conference was a great success, and Marcell’s talk was the hit of the day. This outcome can be attributed, in large part, to a conversation I had with a stranger in the fried catfish line.

Now go out and work on improving as many relationships as you can. You never know how they will pay off.

Jerry Osteryoung, director of outreach of the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University, can be reached at