Interviews and memes about work and relationship building
There’s a lot of speculation about the future of work. One thing that we know for sure is that the nature of work is changing rapidly. According to Zack Bennett’s vision for the future, relationships will be more important than ever.
Zack began his career as an engineer and management consultant in Silicon Valley. He then joined financial services giant, American Express, where, over the course of over ten years, he earned promotions to executive level positions.
Zack left the corporate world to start a logistics management software company that served aid and development organizations in the Middle East and Africa. The company was acquired and he’s been on the startup bandwagon ever since.
More recently, Zack was Founder and CEO of Abaxx Technologies, which he took public in less than three years with a valuation of over $250 million.
Over the course of his career, climbing the ladder at a Fortune 500 company, and starting and selling startups, Zack realized how antiquated the way that we work is and formed a vision for the future of work. He’s the Author of Winning in the Future of Work: How to Navigate the Changing Workplace, Embrace Your Personal Genius, and Find Harmony in Your Life.
I interviewed Zack about how he built relationships throughout his career as an executive and founder, and how to be successful in the future of work.
As an engineer at the beginning of his career, Zack’s work was all about building. As he began climbing the ladder, at American Express, Zack says that people skills and relationships became more important than technical skills.
“At a certain point, my network and my personal relationships was the absolute primary factor for my success.”
As a senior executive, it actually went too far in that direction for Zack. It was all about politics and managing the flow of information, and not enough about building and selling and “real work”, he says. So he left to start his first startup.
Zack says that relationships were critical to his success as a founder. They helped the most with getting customers, raising money, and recruiting top talent.
Landing big companies as early customers gives startups credibility and makes it easier to get the next customers and raise more money. Zack’s contacts from his days in corporate were invaluable in this regard.
Recruiting is a major challenge for companies of all sizes right now. Perhaps even more so for startups. Zack says that more experienced and talented people have a big opportunity cost associated with joining a startup. “You need to get people to take a chance on you. Pulling from my networks in different industries was our best source for talent,” he explains.
I asked Zack how he cultivated such a strong network throughout the course of his career. He said that he’s always taken a genuine interest in people. He starts by trying to learn what people want – whether it be talent, innovative ideas, or investment opportunities – rather than trying to pitch or sell, and moving on quickly if there aren’t shared interests.
Zack’s vision for the future of work is fascinating. As the cost of collaborating and transacting decreases, “the prevalence of corporations is going to ramp back down.” There’s less of a need for large groups of people to work within the same organization or even physical location. Your community and network becomes your primary source for livelihood, he says:
“The future of work is going to be much more dependent on your personal network than it is on any organization. The more intentional and thoughtful you can be about cultivating that network, the more you will be successful in the future of work.”
If and when relationships surmount the corporation as the primary organizing force in the professional world, cultivating relationships will be one of the most critical skills.
We’re all realizing how difficult it is to cultivate relationships now that so much work is happening remotely. Zack says that relationships need to be built on a one on one basis. Group Zoom calls are great for meetings, but not for building strong individual connections. One to one relationships layer up to form a community and culture, and that’s a competitive advantage for companies, he adds.