When I left Wall Street to travel around the world, I was pursuing something very specific.

I found what I was looking for in the people I met during my travels. Being exposed to so many beautiful people, who were going through so many different life experiences, showed me I was ill-prepared to be a part of the world community in a constructive way.

When I returned to the U.S. and volunteered in the clean-up efforts of 9/11, I was confronted by the idea of a world community once again, this time in a very different way. I was able to identify a need to connect and identify with others and then help them solve problems.

So I went back to school to earn a Master’s degree in nonprofit work, this time to actively become a part of the world community. After graduating, I worked with nonprofits for a number of years, before feeling that need to connect with the world in a new way.

During my nonprofit work years, I always held the philosophy that I would never ask a donor for anything. I always wanted to offer them something; I wanted to give them the opportunity to be a part of something bigger.

I brought that same focus of giving into the world of websites and online marketing. I wanted to offer solutions, opportunities, options, changes, excitement, and brighter futures. These are the things that move people, not asking for something without a real relationship. Not cold ROI and sales figures.

Too often, we think “business” needs to be hard, cold, and impersonal. We’re told to have a thick skin, that it’s a cut-throat world out there.

But that’s not true.

People are looking for ways to connect. They want to do business with people they like. Whether they know it or not, they are looking for purpose. I’m there to remind them of their passion.

Leveraging Your Greatest Business Asset

I love groups. I’m a group former, a group nurturer. Strong groups are built on strong relationships.

Lucky for me, building a great business is exactly the same as building a strong group.

I studied group dynamics in college, so I know first hand that people crave community and connection. In the age of Facebook and texting, real connections are made in identifying similar pains and working through them. I saw it in the people I met in my travels. I saw it again at Ground Zero. I see it every day in my business.

The elements required to form great group relationships are simple: bring who you truly are to the table and have a genuine interest in the person across from you.

Realize, in every potential client meeting, that whether they bring you business or not, there’s something magical that can happen here.

Be willing to listen to people and their ideas, really listen. Being open to everyone’s thoughts and opinions allows you to make greater changes. Your job is simple: allow your clients to do what they do best.

I love to tell my clients, “Let me do what I do well, so you can do what you do better.”

When you get to the point of choosing who you want to work with – the people you identify most with – that alone makes you, your services, and your results better.

Always aim for humility and the rest will follow.

Going Beyond Monetary ROI

Mention ROI and people immediately think about money, especially in business.

But ROI is also about making someone’s life easier or making their day better. I love showing others the amazing tools and solutions that will transform their lives. Making people feel good brings them immediate value.

Take the time to educate them. Show them you’re an expert, but also show them you understand. Allow them to get excited about the work to be done. Help them put the right energy into their business.

When you approach working with others in this way, you can spend hours picking apart their business to create a list of things to address and define while making them feel joyful at the same time.

You might have tough conversations, but if you make clients feel good, if you’re actually solving problems and take the time to build a personal relationship through education, they’ll come out of that meeting wanting to do it again.

When you can make them feel good about the time, energy, and emotional investment they must make, clients can get excited about the work to be done and begin imagining what the future can bring them. Then you deliver the work. That’s ROI.

Show Them How to Leap

There’s always a point where a potential client needs to take a leap of faith, even after you’ve shown them all the great work you’ve done for others.

There’s a dream attached to showing people what their business can do. Once you lay this out for them, it doesn’t take much effort for them to start dreaming bigger. They’ll begin thinking things like, “We can finally hire that assistant. I can finally get home for dinner with my family. We might be able to take a vacation this year.”

When you take the time to build a genuine relationship with them, that leap is so much easier. At the very least, they know they’re leaping with you.

Be human first. If you bring your personality to the table, whatever it is, there are people who will identify with it. And you’ll make each other’s lives a joy.

I’ll walk two extra blocks to get a coffee from the people who know my name. I feel good about spending that money. I feel good about having that human interaction.

Putting more heart into your business moves your interactions away from the bottom line and back toward improving others’ quality of life.

It’s not the only way, but it’s my way.