“It’s not you, it’s me.” Why the context of our relationships matters.

Is it possible to raise money and build a culture and company that you really want?

This is a question I’ve received often in working with high-growth and startup companies. And it’s a tough one to answer because each situation is unique. But nonetheless, my answer gravitates to "Yes."  It is possible to raise capital/investment in your company and build the company/culture you want.

But even if I tell you "Yes" now, it doesn't mean it's going to unfold that way.  

Here's why:

My answer is based on the foundational level of relationships. It’s a two-way street with two or more subjects. Usually, but not limited to people. Person A and Person B.  The nature of that relationship is built on what Person A and Person B are trying to achieve in establishing the relationship. What is the goal of the relationship and how can the two mutually benefit from one another?

This concept holds true in each relationship we create. Partner. Children. Pets. Boss. Company. Investors. Employees. Friends. The relationship is created and then sustained based on something.  

The question is, what is that something?

In the context of raising money or taking an investment, the relationship is typically going to be based on financials. 'As an investor, I will provide you with this money and this is what I expect in return.' It is a financially-driven relationship. Whereas a mentor or advisor is typically based on something else. It could be expertise, personal connection, or even emotional support. Regardless of the reason, there is a context for the relationship.

Understanding the context of the relationship, and being honest and aware of what that context represents, becomes critical to how the relationship unfolds. And with that understanding and awareness, you can then determine how that relationship fits into what it is you are trying to achieve for yourself and your company. Your culture. Your future.

Of course, I write this entry in the context of relationships with others. But ultimately, it's the relationship within you that is the most critical piece.

The understanding and awareness you have for any relationships external to you will not reach its potential if you, internally, are not clear about what you want and what you are trying to achieve.  That means understanding what's important to you and why.

Without this internal understanding, trying to align your own investors, mentors, advisors will get tricky. Because if you're not clear on what you want, then you're unlikely going to be clear about what you want out of your external relationships.  

So when faced with a choice about how to proceed, or who to build relationships with, be sure to ask yourself some questions:

  • What's important to me about the relationships I build and why?
  • What is it I'm ultimately trying to achieve?
  • How does this relationship align with what's important to me and why?
  • Assuming it aligns, what can we do to make it successful?

If these questions seem difficult to answer it's because…they are difficult to answer. Understanding the internal is a never-ending process, and then building relationships on top of it makes it even harder.  Relationships in the context of money add a different layer of complexity. But I'm confident that if you start with the internal alignment, then you'll be more capable of navigating the complexities when they arise.

Because eventually they will.