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The Relationship Value Pyramid

Author: David Nour

The depth and relevancy of your current relationships are crucial for your success. For years, I have searched for a process to systematically discern the broad-based business stature of my existing relationships. Unable to find one, we created the Relationship Value Pyramid. Picture a pyramid with four layers. At the base of the pyramid we have Situation Relationships. Above that is Investment, followed by Portfolio. At the top of the pyramid we will call it 2 AM's.

Before we look in depth at each of the levels, it is important to point out that this ideal does not imply that some people are more important than others – everyone has value. Instead, the purpose here is to focus on the relevancy of each person in this chapter of your professional life, the nature of your current relationship, and the frequency in which you are likely to work together.


First let's examine the most extensive part of our pyramid found at the base. Your interaction with these people is occasional, your relationship very friendly and collegial. You interact with them because you need to for a particular project, or in a specific department or event-based situation. If that situation were to change, more than likely so would the nature of your interaction and relationship. Think of past neighbors, colleagues, project teams with outside consultants, or an industry association you no longer actively participate in.

When possible, automate your outreach to this you-never-knew group. Well over 27,000 opt-in subscribers who may have heard me speak at a conference or attended one of our training sessions receives our sought-after monthly newsletter. They may not think of Relationship Economics to solve a critical business challenge today, but you never know when a CEO will read the article in a recent edition and call us to inquire about our social networking strategy road map. Similarly, you can't afford to ignore what we believe is 50 percent of an individual's portfolio of relationships because you really never know when these dynamic roles, market opportunities, and event-driven situations will become an asset to your efforts. Yet this is also too broad of an audience for any concerted effort. Instead, seek out the up-and-comers who are quickly becoming pivotal contacts in their chosen fields and aim to become an asset to them.


Moving up our pyramid we have Investment Relationships. Your interaction is regular, your relationship cooperative. Members of this group are a lot like you. Found in this category are those individuals with which you have a high degree of behavioral and psychological profile similarities. Take the time to get to know them better, collaborate more frequently, and develop a closer relationship. The tactics and the ethics of your relationship with this category are of critical importance for they are most susceptible to perceived inappropriate relationships. Those who are most like you will draw out cries of favoritism, nepotism, and "foul play".

You may have a strong relationship with this group and cooperate with them on key initiatives, but they may or may not be of the highest value to your relevant goals and objectives. Remember that the aim is to heavily invest in those who can influence the achievement of your goals or create access to those who can directly help. This group should ideally make up 25 percent of your portfolio of relationships.


Heading towards the top of our pyramid are the go-to people in your portfolio of relationships. They are subject matter, geographic, or functional experts. Your interactions are frequent and your relationship is very collaborative. The relationship is one of equal stature and perceived value-add. If value is diminished in one scenario, it is easily replenished in another.

These are high-value targets. To build deeper relationships, focus on close family ties and interactions, or non-work-related interactions over an extended period of time. This group should ideally compose 15 percent of your portfolio of relationships.

2 AM's

Finally at the peak of our pyramid we have a special group. Not only will this group not get upset if you call them at 2 a.m., they will come and bail you out of jail! Your access to them is immediate and you have a very interdependent relationship.

These are former bosses, mentors, coaches, and other select people with a very real vested interest in your well-being and success. These people are the real gems in your portfolio of relationships. Protect them at all costs, take care of them, never let them down, and constantly aim to remain an asset to them. These are mentors who can provide pearls of wisdom and valuable access to pivotal contacts most relevant to your goals. They know you very well, so leverage their insights as sounding boards and gauge your personal and professional strengths and weaknesses from their candor. Never embarrass them or even hint to the outside world any weaknesses or shortcomings they may possess.

This group should be your lifelong mission in developing relationships and should make up the remaining 10 percent of your relationship portfolio. It has been our experience that senior executives who heavily guard their most intimate relationships have single digit 2 AM's – a very select few whom they have known for years. They have vacationed together, are childhood friends, college roommates, or have met through a special circumstance. To be clear – these 2 AM's are professional relationships beyond your close personal friends and family members.

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About the Author

David Nour is a social networking strategist and one of the foremost thought leaders on the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, David and his team are solving global client challenges with Strategic Relationship Planning™ and Enterprise Social Networking best practices.

David is the author of Relationship Economics (Wiley, 2008), The Entrepreneur's Guide to Raising Capital (Praeger, 2009), ConnectAbility (McGraw-Hill, 2010), and the Social Networking Technology Best Practices Series. He is a contributor to The Social Media Bible (Wiley, 2009) and is currently researching and writing his next commercial book on Listen Louder .

David's unique perspective and independent insights have been featured in a variety of prominent blogs and print publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Association Now, Entrepreneur and Success magazine.