Editor’s Note: This article was first published in Inc. Magazine here.
We now have over 300 people at my company Drift, and when you move so quickly, it’s easy to forget what got us here. What really helped us build this brand and this community. And that is this: We built the brand one person at a time.
We focused on every interaction we had – with anyone we encountered as a business. Whether they were a customer, a vendor, or whoever.
I was reminded of this twice recently. The first was by Jesse Itzler, founder of Marquis Jets and The 100 Mile Group, and an owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. Before starting Marquis Jets, Jesse was in the music business and was partners with Jam Master Jay, the DJ from Run-D.M.C. One day, Jam Master Jay called up Jesse and said he knew a kid named Curtis who needed an internship. So, Jesse hired him and they ran a promotion van for the NY Knicks together.
Eight years later, Curtis became 50 Cent – and was scheduled to be a passenger on one of Jesse’s planes. Seeing this, Jesse sent 50 Cent a note and a bottle of champagne, congratulating him on his success, and welcoming him to Marquis Jets. The next day, 50 Cent had it changed in his rider that he would exclusively travel on Marquis Jets.
You never know who your intern will end up becoming.
I was also reminded of this when I chatted with someone on LinkedIn recently who I’d met back when we were in our Cambridge office. Back then, this person was delivering food for lunch.
And all I did was treat him like we all want to be treated. I welcomed him as a guest in our office and was nice to him, smiled at him, said hello. And I did that because it was the right thing to do – and was an aspect of the culture of respect I wanted to cultivate at Drift.
He wasn’t 50 Cent, but what I didn’t know at the time was he was actually the owner of the restaurant, which was a startup just like us. Fast-forward to a few years later, and he now works for a large customer of ours.
And since that day at our office, he has been an advocate for Drift. He promotes us on social media and is an internal supporter at his current company. All because of that one, simple interaction.
It doesn’t matter if you are a business owner, an individual contributor or a manager. If you want to build a business, focus on every interaction you have. And not just externally via marketing, or sales, or social media. But also when someone – anyone – shows up to your office.
That is the one free thing we did that helped us build our business.