Banking Social Capital

Banking Social Capital

The primary currency of professional relationships is worth its weight in gold.

You hear about monetary or social capital often. When it comes to getting things done for your brand and building your reputation, social capital is the asset to grow. Your rewards may be far higher than the S&P annual return or your latest investment in real estate.

A former colleague once described building social capital this way: You cannot expect to make withdrawals until you have made a number of deposits. People adept at making deposits are usually considered connectors. Valued members of companies, boards and even kids’ sports teams—connectors are always welcome. I advise you to be that connector for those around you and watch how these good deeds reap dividends for years to come.

Assessing value

Just how valuable is social capital? “My social networks have enriched my life and provided me infinite tangible assets,” says Natasha Freimark, principal at Minneapolis-based FreiMARK Marketing + Events. A newly minted entrepreneur, Freimark stresses that tapping into her various networks has been invaluable for her fledgling business.

Of course, you don’t always know your needs or goals down the line. The nature of growing social capital means you take regular moments “to think about your relationships that are working and ask yourself what you can do to be even more intentional about honoring the value of each connection,” suggests Paula Wilhelm, client services coordinator of Gallup’s Minneapolis office.

The vacuum cleaner pitfall

Take an inventory of the various business and social groups to which you belong. These can be professional or social or maybe even a mix. “Be genuine and don’t overplay what you do and who you are,” advises Robb Gruman, vice president for construction, project management and space management for Fairview Health Services. Plan to give as much or more than you get, Gruman says. “Don’t be a vacuum cleaner that sucks everything out of others.”

We all know people like that. The subtextual message a vacuum cleaner gives does not build productive and healthy business relationships. Worse, it breeds resentment and avoidance in the very people with whom you hope to develop rapport.

The professionals quoted this month are all examples of generous depositors into my social capital bank. Hopefully these examples will inspire your own deposits.

Natasha Freimark and I met in 2009 when we served on a board together. Our social and professional paths crossed several times over the years, which led to a wonderful friendship. In 2014, she nominated me to serve on a university board; we now are both members. When she wanted to sit down over lunch shortly after starting her new business, I was more than happy to share my experiences being in her shoes nine years ago. Now I might even become one of her clients.

Paula Wilhelm was my marathon training group’s support system at mile 19 of the 2010 Twin Cities Marathon. She was only planning to run a mile with me; but at about three miles, near delirium, I ended up needing her. She was kind to be so caring. Giving me cookies when I needed carbs most launched what has become a lovely friendship and an ongoing exchange of ideas and names when people in our circles need help, a phone number or just a hug.

Robb Gruman and I met not long after I joined the Edina Chamber of Commerce in 2006. We didn’t really get to know each other that well until I joined the chamber’s board in 2013. He was an instant mentor. I can’t share all our inside jokes, but I will tell you this hospital executive has a great sense of humor and a heart of gold. Recently, I brought a friend to a chamber event and thought Robb would be a good connection. Robb not only spent time talking to my friend at the event, he connected him with business leads at Fairview. Robb didn’t owe my friend anything, but his natural generosity meant all connections felt good about what transpired. I am eternally grateful to Robb for the advice, laughs and support he’s shared with me and my connections.

Bank it

Building social capital is a marathon, not a sprint. If you keep a base of regular positive communication, there will be good things waiting for you at numerous finish lines in the years ahead.

Roshini Rajkumar is a communication coach, host of News & Views on WCCO Radio, and author of Communicate That! For additional communication tips, visit