Studies show that relationships are the most important factor in determining an individual’s happiness, and contribute to both health and longevity. Could this be true in business too? Family enterprises that prioritize relationships and connection have a unique competitive advantage.

“The connections we make in the course of a life – maybe that’s what heaven is.”
–Fred Rogers

Can I really say that I was “surprised” when my father-in-law passed away at 98 years of age this month? I think I have to, because Ray Lynch was so full of life. 

At Six-Point, we often talk about your company’s brand as its reputation. Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It is what others say it is. 

Ray’s brand, whether he was conscious of it or not, was connection.

Connection for Ray wasn’t a fleeting moment. It endured. Ray married the love of his life, Ann, who he met in first grade (the same grade my son Henry is in now, which has me looking at his classmates with a more discerning eye!) Ray enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific during World War II, and could still tell you the hometown of each of his shipmates.

An elementary school principal, Ray kept track of the careers of staff members and students… and their families. I have to admit, I was often skeptical. You know where your former secretary’s son went to college? I would think, smugly. He is just making this up. And then I would secretly fact-check him, just to prove myself right. Lo and behold, Ray would be 100% accurate, and I would be humbled.

Although I am technically the only family member working in my business, Six-Point, I also considered Ray a part of the Six-Point family. He starred in a video for one of our clients five years ago that won a regional gold award, which he kept proudly on his bedroom bureau. He formed relationships with my colleagues as quickly as he did with everyone else, and never forgot their spouses’ names, or their hometowns.

Ray’s unique way of not only connecting with others, but of honoring those connections throughout his life, has been something that I have been reflecting on over the past several weeks. 

And you know that phenomenon when you get a new car, and then it seems like all of a sudden everyone else is driving the same one? I feel like that is also happening to me as I realize how fundamentally important relationships and connection are to my definition of success.

For example, on New Year’s Day, the New York Times ran an article that touted the findings of the longest-running in-depth study on human happiness in the world. “From all the data, one very clear finding has emerged: Strong relationships are what make for a happy life. More than wealth, I.Q., or social class, it’s the robustness of our bonds that most determines whether we feel fulfilled.”

The Harvard study and others have shown clearly that people who are socially connected live longer and are healthier. While my experience with my father-in-law was far from scientific, his happy, healthy 98 years is certainly more anecdotal evidence.

I would also make the case that this is true in business as well. 

Recently I was on a call with a CEO who I had connected with both personally and professionally. She was trying to lead sweeping positive change, but was hitting major roadblocks. Our team offered some pro bono support because I knew how important this change was to her, and also how much value she will be able to bring others when she pulled it off. 

To me, the offer was probably the least I could do. To her, it was much more. 

She stopped abruptly in the call to let me know that the offer of support had helped to re-energize her for the hard work ahead. It reinforced the possibility of a bright future and a fresh approach. In her words: a healthy, human way of doing business together.

So what do we do with this belief that relationships and connection are fundamental to a healthy business?

At Six-Point, we are making it our mantra and measure of success this year. This is kicking off initiatives like:

  • The creation of a new position, a Six-Pointer in charge of culture and talent to prioritize the health of our internal team and external partner relationships. (If you know anyone who would be a great fit, please share!)

  • A new focus on client experience, that doubles down on clarity and guidance at every step, and rewards the loyalty of our clients in new ways. (More to come on this soon!)

  • An investment of time and money in organizations that nurture relationships and support our clients in areas far beyond brand strategy. For example, we are excited to be new Visionary Sponsors of the Prairie Family Business Association. This organization is rooted in the midwest, but is branching out beyond regional borders to support family businesses in all areas of the country through generational transitions and planning for a sustainable future. 

Our clients have also found interesting ways to prioritize relationships and connection in their brand work. For example, in 2022, clients have engaged us to develop:

  • Internal brand strategies that clarify and communicate core values more intentionally

  • Strategies to nurture mission-critical contractor relationships 

  • Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) communication strategies

  • Campaigns to promote philanthropic initiatives

  • Customer and community appreciation strategies

For our clients, people come first, always. Relationships and connection are not just corporate slogans. They are lived every day. In truth, many of our clients make business decisions that on paper look “wrong.” The initiatives they prioritize aren’t the fastest way to earn profit or a path to a big buyout. They are about building a legacy that endures. They are about honoring connections and relationships, and demonstrating the confidence that doing so will build a stronger, healthier business.

Because our relationships are where true happiness and fulfillment lie, and I couldn’t be prouder to support that.