You often hear talk of financial capital in the business world. Financial growth is, after all, the goal of most businesses. But social capital is even more important. Social capital is developed through social interactions, particularly in personal and professional networks. Social capital includes ideas, knowledge, information, opportunities, contacts – and of course – referrals. It also encompasses trust, confidence, friendship, good deeds, and goodwill.

Usually, the more social capital you build, the more financial capital and business success you experience.

Historically, in small town America, neighbors knew each other and a community atmosphere was developed. But in our increasingly urban, disconnected modern world, social capital is something that we must go out of our way to develop. The fastest way to build it is through interpersonal relationships, namely networking. Referral networking groups create a virtual main street, allowing members to build old fashioned, small-town relationships, with a modern twist.

Like financial capital, social capital is not necessarily easy. It takes time and work. But, according to the law of reciprocity, the more you give (without the expectation of return), the more you will receive in return. By helping others, you develop trust, which leads to the accumulation of social capital. This can be through providing advice, information and referrals to your fellow networkers, without the expectation of return.

Here are some ways to build better relationships with people (and thus better social capital):

  • Give your clients (or networking group members) a personal call. Find out what’s going on in their lives. Do not ask for anything at this point, just check in.
  • Make personal calls to all people who have helped you or referred you business. Again, don’t ask for anything, just see what they are up to.
  • Put together a hit list of 50 people you’d like to stay in touch with this year. Include anyone who has sent you business. Send them all a personal, hand-written card around the next appropriate holiday.
  • Two weeks after you’ve sent them a card, call them again and check in. At this point it would be appropriate to ask for a referral.

Homework

  1. Call three past clients this week and check in on them. See how everything is going. Add them to your list of 50 to send cards to sometime this year. Do this again every week until you have 50.
  2. Pick one client or colleague that you can easily be helpful to this week. Help them for free, without any expectation of return.
  3. Set an intention for the week to be helpful to others, without the expectation of return. Pay it forward this week.