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Interview by Allison Sima. December 14, 2012.
About Ed Wallace:
Ed spent 20 years with Vertex as their Vice President of Business Development. During this time, the company grew from $1 million to over $120 million. He founded The Relational Capital Group so he could bring his relationship-building principles and the Relational Ladder® process to corporations and their professionals. He now consults with and speaks for corporations and associations across the globe with a client list that is a Who’s Who of Fortune 500 companies.
He has published three books on relational capital – Fares to Friends, Creating Relational Capital and in his most recent, Business Relationships That Last (Greenleaf, 2010). Ed has become critically acclaimed as the foremost authority on business relationships as he again illustrates his relationship-building principles through real-life stories, examples, and insights gathered from his experiences – demonstrating to his readers why establishing and advancing outstanding business relationships is the true “secret to success.”
Ed is currently on the Executive Education faculty of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and Villanova University’s Human Resources Master’s program. He was a Teaching Fellow at Drexel, where he earned his MBA, has a B.S. in Accounting (cum laude) from Villanova University, and a CPA designation in the State of Pennsylvania. He is currently on the advisory board of DeVry University.
Ed resides in the Philadelphia area with his wife Laurie and their two children.
SIMA: Thank you, Mr. Wallace, for taking the time to interview with us. How did you get started as an expert in “relational capital”?
WALLACE: I guess the best way to answer that all through my sales career, I observed what attribute that the top performers had in common and it turned out to be they were very strong at launching, advancing and sustaining high performing relationships. During this process I realized that most top performers simply adlibbed their way through their relationships. They were following a process as ad hoc as it appeared, so I simply decided to “write it down” and the Relational Ladder® and Relational Capital concepts ensued.
SIMA: Are there industries that you specialize in?
WALLACE: In business today, everything can be commoditized, digitized or outsourced, except for “relationships.” Therefore, the cool thing about having relationships as our business platform is despite the industry, rarely do I hear a business leader or sales executive say, “We do not need to get better at relationships.” In fact, when I ask if relationships are critical to their business success, the answer invariably is “yes!”
As far as specific industries, manufacturing, professional and business to business services services, wholesale/distribution, banking and financial services, non-profit and higher ed, and high tech. Most of our customers are seeking to build long term relationships with their customers versus transactional relationships.
SIMA: Please tell us a little about your colleagues at the Relational Capital Group.
WALLACE: The RCG is composed of colleagues who always put their relationships first in every business interaction they encounter. I have been very fortunate to attract colleagues, customers and investors to RCG who are passionate about the power of relationships. (Their profiles can be found under Our Team on www.relationalcapitalgroup.com.)
SIMA: You help clients advance in three areas: customer relationships, colleague/team relationships, and brand relationships. When developing these areas, where can a client expect the process to begin?
WALLACE: I believe the process begins with where our clients have set their goals. We approach every client opportunity with what I call in “Business Relationships That Last” – worthy intentions – putting the other person’s best interest ahead of your own. The key is that our clients actually know we have worthy intent toward them not that we believe we have it. This manifests in our ability to understand their Relational GPS (business and personal Goals, causes or Passions – things they care deeply about and Struggles and who does not have them?) Therefore, if a client is looking to advance customer relationships then we would focus on that area, brand relationships in that area and so on. It really is about what THEY are trying to accomplish.
SIMA: On your website, www.relcapgroup.com, there is a white paper entitled “A Better Way to Measure & Value Business Relationships,” which discusses how relationships impact results. In your experience, can you tell us about a time when you have seen the most dramatic impact on results due to relationships?
WALLACE: One of our clients is a market leading data storage and technology company. They were about to lose a $4m annual contract due to the deterioration of the relationships between both teams management. A new enterprise account representative was assigned and he decided to stop trying to sell or save the account and simply get to better understand the Relational GPS of the customer. After six months of just getting to really understand what was driving this customer and their decisions to part ways, the customer decided to stay with them and the value of the relationships increased from 4 to 10 million annually. In debriefing with our client on why this happened, their comment was, “We finally decided to focus on the relationship and not what was in it for us!”
SIMA: You are the author of the book Business Relationships That Last. Can you tell us a little about the book? What inspired you to write the book?
WALLACE: I had the vision to write a book most of my career and until my younger son Grant fell off a skateboard in 2005 and was rushed to the hospital on a helicopter, did I finally realize how important and fleeting every moment is and that became the main motivation for me to write. I actually wrote two books prior to Business Relationships That Last, Fares to Friends: How to Develop Outstanding Business Relationships (2007) and Creating Relational Capital (2008). The full story about Grant is on our web site.
SIMA: What is some of the feedback that you have received from readers?
WALLACE: First I was honored that Dr. Covey and other relationship and business thought leaders famous people were kind enough to endorse my book. With tens of thousands in circulation along with a paperback version, we continue to marvel at the reach this book has had and the key concepts that various readers will share. It is a very humbling and gratifying feeling.
SIMA: If someone is interested in purchasing Business Relationships That Last, where can they go?
WALLACE: Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and any place hard bound or e-books are marketed.
SIMA: You are well known for your dynamic and educational speaking engagements. What are some of the venues you have spoken at recently and what kind of response did you receive from the audience?
WALLACE: Dow National Sales Meeting; The World Bank Annual Leadership Meeting; National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual meeting; Dow’s Europe/Northern Africa/Middle East annual meeting in Switzerland; Chubb Insurance’s Leadership Meeting; ICE Annual Conference keynote; First Summit Financial Annual Broker’s Meeting.
The Speaking tab on our site has comments from various conferences where I did keynotes. I do around 25 keynotes per year.
SIMA: What do you enjoy most about being a speaker?
WALLACE: The level of audience participation is my indicator that the concepts and my approach is connecting. I design most keynotes to be highly interactive despite the size of the audience with that in mind rather than a “death by ppt” approach.
SIMA: How do you foresee our changing economy affecting relationships in business?
WALLACE: I believe that the world is definitely “flattening” and with that the pace of innovation allows competitors to keep pace at an alarming pace. Therefore, the ultimate secret to staying on top will be the depth and quality of the relationships that organizations can establish to “competitor proof” themselves. Focusing on relationships intentionally is the ultimate winning strategy!
SIMA: What are some of your goals for the Relational Capital Group in the next 2 years?
WALLACE: Our first goal is to enjoy what we do the fullest extent every single day. With that we have been fortunate to have developed strong customer “relationships” with some of the world’s leading companies. Therefore our next priority is to serve these existing customers’ needs to the best of our ability. They will always be our number one priority. Our third goal is to expand our new partnership with Salesforce.com. Please refer to www.rqforsalesforce.com for more info on this. We developed a new application that allows professionals who use salesforce.com to indentify, measure and advance the key relationships that most impact their performance. We are the only company in the world that can provide this capability and our goal is to serve the salesforce.com customer’s needs as we do our current customers.
SIMA: What is your best advice to clients and prospective clients?
WALLACE: Focus on relationship strategies at all levels in your organization. The margin for error in your business today is razor thin, why take a chance on relationships?
SIMA: Is there anything you can share about yourself, personally?
WALLACE: I have been fortunate to have been blessed with a wonderful partner in my wife Laurie, two great kids, and more relationships around the world than anyone should be permitted to enjoy!
SIMA: In conclusion, thank you Mr. Wallace. I appreciate your time and your expertise.