How to Make Meaningful Connections and Create Opportunities with Mark Anthony Bates

Recently I was joined by a serial networker, an incredible entrepreneur, and someone who literally can take your business out of the stratosphere, Mark Anthony Bates. It was an absolutely fascinating conversation that covered a wide range of topics that you just have to go check out for yourself.

Here are the top 10 highlights from the podcast:

1. People, Fun, Money

Mark: Now you may have heard Roland use my PFM model, People, Fun, Money. Let me explain that real quick. I have, like you, and many other people, lots of opportunities presented. I would have the challenge of getting around people who are so passionate and excited about what they’re working on. When they present it to me, I may say yes, when I should say “Not now or no.” 

Roland’s the one that taught me how to say not now. Because I used to have a hard time saying no to people. It doesn’t feel good and I don’t like the look on their face. He goes, “You know, you don’t always have to say, no, you can say not now.” Brilliant. 

So with this, I said, “Okay, how do I identify what I like working on and who I like working with?” So I created the model PFM, which stands for People, Fun, Money. Number one, how does the product, service, or message positively impact the end-user or market? How are people going to have a better quality of life? 

If I understand that and they’ve done a good job of articulating that, then the second thing is, will the project be fun to do and will I be fun to do it with? Because if the answer is no on either one of those, it’s a hard pass. You don’t need to tell me anything more because life is too short.

Then the third one after that is, what’s the clear path of monetization? If all three of those are met in that particular order. Then I don’t say yes, I say, “tell me more.” So that’s why I’m excited about all the projects I work on. I can say that with congruency and integrity, I don’t do projects I’m not excited about. And so I’m, and I’m doing a lot of ’em and multiple verticals worldwide. 

2. What do SMART Businesses do?

Adam: What do smart businesses do? In your own words, what do they do?

Mark: For me smart businesses will put together an exit strategy and work backward in routes, because Adam, I will tell you when I speak at entrepreneurial small business events, I’ll ask the people in the room. “How many people have an exit strategy?” About 70% on average do not, about 20% do, and I can rip it apart. Then only about 10% have a really good one. 

Some people may say, “I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. I’m never going to sell the company.” Well, I would ask those people to time travel with me for a moment because I did this with continental airlines. Let’s go back five years, 10 years, or 15 years.

Is there anything that you or someone you know was very passionate about?

Could you have ever seen them never doing that again for the rest of their life?

Then 10, 15 years later, they’re not. Usually, people will say yes and I go, “Well, what happened?” Something happened in their life. They lost their passion. They had to change direction. 

Now, let’s go time travel forward five years, 10 years, or 15 years. Is it possible since it happened once in your life or maybe more, is it possible in the future that it could happen again?

If it is, wouldn’t it be better to have an exit strategy and never need it than to be in a place where you can see that there’s an opportunity to sell when you’re not as passionate?

Or you need the money and you don’t have something in place so you’re screwing or somebody who wanted to buy, comes up to you and hands you $15 million of cash, but you didn’t have any way to show them the valuation and how you wanted to exit? It’s just better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. 

3. Don’t Network, Connect!

Mark: I hate networking, but I love connecting. And there is a huge distinction between the two. Because when you’re networking, you’re meeting people, but typically the interpretation is to meet as many people as you can, exchange contact information, get to know a little bit about them, and maybe do a follow up which is great. 

For me when I’m doing that, I’d rather meet fewer people and develop a deeper connection. I want to be able to identify what’s going on with them? What are their pain points? What do they need? What resources do I have that I may offer and that I want nothing for in return? I make this really clear and I want to make this as a distinction too. 

Some people think that when they make a connection with other people, if I found somebody that said they needed something, and I knew you, Adam had that ability to fulfill that for them, I would connect you guys. But then that would be your deal. It has nothing to do with me. I just brought you guys closer together and you met. The challenge is that some people feel entitled. They feel entitled when they make the connection and say, “Hey, by the way, if you guys do anything together, I want 10%.”

Well, hell no! If I do something and I’m connecting with people, I see the big picture of how to put the pieces together, on both sides. I know how to identify and expand their market or how to go into new markets. If I’m contributing then I may want to talk to them, but I’ll meet the expectations first. 

I’ll tell them, “Hey, I would love to get involved.” Usually, they offer but if they don’t, I say, “I would love to be more involved. If I can help. Is there a way I can also participate in the spoils? Is it okay if I or we can identify something that I’m contributing to, besides the connection to grow the business, may I play?” And now I’ve said it right up front. 

4. Tips on Handling Rejection

Hannah (Live audience):  When you were talking about connections, and you’re trying to make that connection, you’re occasionally going to get rejected. I’m wondering what are some tips you may have to help handle rejection?

Mark: Well, first off, know that you may get rejected, but I don’t think about being rejected ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. I’ve never thought about that. If there’s even an inkling that I may get rejected, I’m gonna start setting up the environment for that to perhaps happen. Depending on who I’m connecting with, I’m going to be consciously aware of who I want to connect with. But if they’re rejecting you don’t look at it as rejection. Look at it like you haven’t made that connection yet. Next time you go up to somebody and you feel that you’re going to get rejected, know that they’re doing you a favor, all right? 

They are self-selecting out of your life because the reality is Hannah if you come up there intending to bring value, good energy, and not wanting anything from them, and they reject you before even knowing anything about you? Say, thank you. Thank you for going ahead and deselecting yourself out of my life, because the next person you go to will be that person you should be connecting with. 

Now, here’s the really interesting thing. There are a lot of people who may not know who I am and when I go to an event and somebody introduces me, I’ve had people shake my hand and they’re not even looking at me. They’re looking around thinking about who else is more important in the room that they need to connect with, but they know nothing about me. 

And then what’s funny is, later on, they talk to an Adam or another one of our friends and they go, “Oh yeah, Mark Anthony’s a super-connector. He is a badass. He knows this stuff.” All of a sudden they change and they’re nice. But they’ve already shown their true colors to me. So I tell them next, go to the back of the line.

Always walk into a room and walk up to somebody as if they’re your friend. As if you’re going to contribute something to them and know that you may not always make that connection and say, thank you. Does that help Hannah? 

Hannah (Live Audience): It does a lot. Thank you. 

Mark: I can go into deeper stuff for you, but his name is Joe Sweeney. He wrote a book. Networking is a Contact Sport, and he’s got a checklist in there for people who do want to network. There’s nothing wrong with networking, it’s just not my thing.

But it doesn’t mean that other people can’t get extreme value from it. If you get that book there’s a whole checklist of the things you can do before you go to an event on how to connect, what sort of things you should look for, and how you should do the process. So it might be a viable resource for you.

5. Listen to the right kind of news

Mark: People say, don’t listen to the news. I say I listen to the news all the time. I only listen to the news that’s relevant to the markets I want to work on though. I can use things like Google alerts because it lets me know when things are coming up.

Now here’s what’s relevant: when you start paying attention to what’s happening to business, where it’s moving to, where the industries are, and how can you capitalize on something, you can do what you did to acquire the building. 

When the prices are lower, you can fund it from the sources not coming out of your pocket, but it’s coming out of your business. Some people aren’t doing this, but you don’t need to be in commercial real estate to start pulling permits.

You can go down to the city, or the county and see what companies have already put in for permits in what areas. If you can see and identify which area is targeted for growth based on those permits. 

Now it’s not a hundred percent, but if they’re putting in the permits, if Walmart’s looking at something and putting in a permit, or a Home Depot, or Starbucks is putting in some more things, they’ve already done the research for you.

They know what the growth of your area is and what your market may be. And because of their targeted demographics, you can pull their demographics and figure out, “How do I serve that demographic in that market?” Based on their research I didn’t have to pay a dime for it. 

6. How to earn credibility

Mark: You see, it was the contact and the connection, right? It didn’t have to do with what you might be able to do. I mean, they were in a bind and you were able to fulfill that bind. You don’t need to know the how right? The challenge is, the vast majority of the projects that I get involved in, I know nothing about, but I can see how to connect the dots.

You have credibility when somebody else gives you credibility.

I only need to know who are the people that I can curate that I have enough credibility with? You don’t have credibility with somebody because you exchange a business card with them at an event, you have credibility when somebody else gives you credibility, third-party credibility. You have credibility when you’ve offered to do something without asking for anything in exchange and you follow through.

You do what you say, you say what you do. And when you don’t, you tell somebody. Those things, that consistency is genuine and authentic, not because you say you are, but because your actions are massively consistent all the way through there.

So really the reality here is everything in this business, everything in marketing, everything is communication and connection. It really is. 

7. Choose where you live strategically

Adam: This is my general tip. If you have a city and the city is highlighted and growing, don’t try and live in the city, live 45 minutes away. The reason being while everyone’s moving into the city, the city prices go through the roof. But the areas within 45 minutes, don’t move until five years later.

When I first moved to Austin I went south when everyone said there was no point, everything’s above Ben White Boulevard. But I took a little place, 35 minutes south, and before I knew it doubled in value.

Likewise, I did the same thing again and lived about 45 minutes east of Austin. Well, I just found out recently that my house, which I bought for $360,000, is now valued at $2.4 million.

To listen to the full episode of the most comprehensive podcast about strategically building and growing your business, the S.M.A.R.T way, click on any one of these platforms and subscribe!

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About Adam Lyons

Beyond his own portfolio of growing companies, Lyons is an advisor for over 500 brands across the US and Canada. Lyons has been featured on the Today Show, The Steve Harvey Show, Forbes, Bloomberg Business and the NY Post. He has been awarded 3 different ‘Wicked Smaht’ Awards due to his innovative business strategies and multiple 2 comma club awards. Companies he has worked with include PepsiCo, Nike, Nescafé, Discovery Digital Networks and many smaller brands.

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