The CEO Collective logo



THE CEO COLLECTIVE

ABOUT

SUCCESS STORIES

THE TOUR

FAQs

JOIN

THE SHOP

THE CEO RETREAT

THE CEO PLANNER

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

GET THE RESOURCES

Why Referrals Are STILL the Gold Standard

by | Last updated: Apr 10, 2022 | Podcast

Social media and online marketing and content creation strategies are wonderful and I use them. But… business grows at the speed of relationships. If you’ve heard it’s impossible to scale a referral-based business or that you shouldn’t rely on referrals for your business, then tune in as me and my Operations Director Amber Kinney expose these myths.

Amber can certainly vouch for this promotional strategy as she’s built her business entirely on referrals. So we have a conversation about how referrals are here to stay, can serve as one of the best things you do for your business, and cover five key strategies to think about so your business can become referrable.

On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

6:23 – Amber briefly discusses a little bit about her business.

9:29 – Is it sustainable to only have a referral-based business? Amber shares her thoughts on the matter.

12:21 – Growing too fast has its consequences. Amber reveals two must-have components for a referrable AND scalable business.

17:07 – How does Amber get referrals? It’s such a simple, casual process.

18:48 – With referrals, a lot of the heavy lifting in vetting both sides (the client and the CEO) is done for you. We discuss the reasons why.

22:46 – Why do some people really struggle with referrals? It’s tied to the transactional feeling of relationships that lack buildup.

27:04 – We talk about how we’ve networked, made connections, and built relationships as introverts to stay on top of our game.

32:28 – Amber offers some final advice to wrap up the interview.

34:23 – I end the episode with a quick summary of the five key things Amber and I talked about regarding building a more referral-based business.

Show Links

Racheal Cook: Have you ever heard that it is impossible to scale a referral-based business? If you only rely on referrals, you are always going to struggle with the feast or famine cycle. Or if you depend on referrals, you are at the whim of other people dictating what happens in your business. Today, we are busting through every single one of these myths and going a whole nother level further with my dear friend and my operations director, Amber Kinney. Let's get into this conversation about how referrals aren't going away and why we think they are one of the best things you can focus on in your business.

Are you ready to grow from solopreneur to CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook. I've spent the last decade helping women entrepreneurs start and scale service-based businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

I feel like I've been on this kick on the podcast talking about the things that are a little bit of zigging when everyone else is zagging, talking about foundational business strategies, the foundational business strategies that have stood the test of time. In fact, this past weekend, I was hosting the CEO Retreat—at the time I'm recording this, it's the week following the CEO Retreat—and I found myself in that retreat saying multiple times to people, “I want you to think about your business and the way that you market your business as if you were marketing it pre-internet.” Why would I say something like that when we have all these amazing new tools and free ways we can grow our business? Those are amazing. All of the online marketing strategies, all of the content creation strategies, all of the social media, all of it is awesome, or else I wouldn't be using it. But the true fact of the matter is business grows at the speed of relationships. If you are in business, you must cultivate deep, meaningful, helpful, collaborative relationships with other people.

Trying to be in business 100% by yourself is incredibly difficult. If you don't have peers, if you don't have people who know about what you do, it is going to be really hard to get a business off the ground. This is why I find so many entrepreneurs, especially in the earlier days of their business or they're trying to grow their business and they're really struggling, they can send all the emails in the world, they can post all the things on social media, they can create all the podcasts out there, but if no one knows who they are, then all they've really accomplished is pushing things out into the internet, sending it out into the void. They have to be able to reach people and connect with people. That's why this conversation is going to be so, so, so important because referrals truly are the lifeblood of many, many, many businesses. This could be client referrals (people referring clients to you), this could be peer referrals (people connecting you with other entrepreneurs, small business owners, service providers). They are so important.

In this conversation, which I know you're going to love, with Amber, we talk about some of the big myths out there about referrals, why we love referrals and what it shows us about a business and the quality of what that business does, and we're going to share five key strategies that you want to be thinking about to become a referable business. Now if you haven't met Amber before, she's been on the podcast. Every once in a while, she agrees to come on. She is truly the behind-the-scenes type of gal, but she and I have been working together for 10 years now, which is amazing. It just absolutely blows my mind. She actually met my twins in person when they were like 18 months old, and they're about to be 12. We have been in each other's life for a very long time. She has been with me every step of the way, behind the scenes growing this business, so we know each other incredibly well. We're both highly introverted but we have different strengths that work really, really well together.

Behind the scenes, I call her my director of operations, she is amazing at managing our team, running operations, and keeping all of the systems moving behind the scenes in the business. She has spent over 10 years scaling many, many well-known online businesses from startup to multiple-seven figures. She has an amazing background working with lots of different industries, lots of different brands, and that gives her such a great perspective on operations and building efficient businesses and effective teams. I know you're going to love this conversation. This is like joining in for our Monday morning meeting and hearing a little bit of our perspective on why we absolutely love referral-based businesses.

Hey there, CEOs. Welcome to a very special conversation. Today, I have with me Amber Kinney, the woman behind the curtain who has been keeping this business moving forward, growing and humming right along for 10 years now. Can you believe that, Amber?

Amber Kinney: I know it's crazy, 10 years.

Racheal Cook: I think that's insane in the internet world these days where people are struggling to find people to work with and here, you and I have been together so long and had such a great relationship over the years. What I think a lot of people don't realize is you run your own business, you don't just work only with me, you work with lots of people, and you've worked with tons of other entrepreneurs. Can you share with everybody a brief overview of what your business is and what it looks like?

Amber Kinney: Sure. My business is The AK Collective. We're essentially an agency business where we focus on the operations, on getting things done, and really truly helping entrepreneurs make their dreams a reality. You have your goals, your vision, and your plans, but how do you make those happen in real life? That's what we do at my business.

Racheal Cook: And you're an agency, you don't do it all yourself.

Amber Kinney: No. We are definitely an agency. We've grown a team. The team has grown a lot. Since you and I started 10 years ago, I think I had maybe two people, I have nine people today plus a few extra contractors as needed, so yes, we're very much a team-based business for sure.

Racheal Cook: I love it. I remember when we both started together, we both had very few people who were helping us. If you were to look at our organizational chart, it's like, “Wow, okay, I've got a lot of different people.” It takes a lot of people to grow a business behind the scenes and I know I couldn't do it without you and your team added on to everybody else on my team. I wanted to bring you on today because I've been talking a lot about doing the things that don't scale but that make a massive difference in your business, the things that I think in this whole online marketing world where everybody thinks it has to be so complicated, I feel like we've lost our way in the business community and we've gotten away from foundational business practices that are still relevant and that still work.

In fact, the last CEO Retreat we just had, I found myself telling people several times, “Pretend like we don't have the internet, what would you do to get clients?” Referrals is something people are always mystified by but I think we can break it down because you run a 100% referral-based business.

Amber Kinney: Yes, completely. We're 100% referral-based. That is our marketing. This is what we do. It's the only way we really get clients.

Racheal Cook: It's the only way you really get clients. I love it. My business is different because on the flip side, you only get referral based, I get a mixture because I do a lot of other marketing activities. Obviously, I'm not an agency business, I'm not a service-based business in the way that you are, but I still get referrals and we see them again and again. People find me and my work and The CEO Collective and then they share it with their friends. It's a thing that happens on a regular basis. I wanted to dive into this a bit with you because, again, this is something I think that there are so many myths around it. People make it too complicated. Can we answer some big questions here? One, is it sustainable to only have a referral-based business? Because there are some online marketers who want us all to have a funnel in place who believe that it's not sustainable long-term and that you're at the whim of other people. What are your thoughts?

Amber Kinney: I've been in my business for 12 years and I started my business on referrals. Really, truly, it is the whole reason it started. I was in a different company doing some different things and I left and people followed me and asked if I could do it for them independently. That's really how my whole business started is from referrals and people knowing who I was are coming to ask if I could do the same thing they'd heard I did for somebody else. My business started with referrals and like I said, that's actually the only way that we have ever really gotten clients is 100% referrals. In fact, to the extent that today, you almost have to be a referral to get in, in a certain way because of capacity reasons. It's definitely, in my opinion and what I've seen and what has worked for me, is it's definitely scalable. We've hit capacity. We grow the team. We hit capacity. We grow the team. We've done that several times over and we've grown every year.

Racheal Cook: Because you're referral-based, have you ever felt like it has slowed down your growth or held back any growth?

Amber Kinney: Sometimes I will get in my head about it if I'm listening to too many things that are like “Referrals aren't sustainable.” If I listen to too much of that, but it's always honestly been in my head, whenever I get in my head about that, if I sit down and look at the numbers and I'm like, “Where are we? Where do we want to go?” We are making our numbers, we're growing, and we're hitting all of the targets where we want to hit and sometimes, honestly, we're hitting them faster than I would expect. I've had people tell me they're worried about me or they one day I'm just going to have to shut down.

Racheal Cook: You don’t run out of people to talk about what you do.

Amber Kinney: Right. Exactly, but that's never even been close to the case in our reality.

Racheal Cook: Absolutely, and I find with businesses like yours, it is so hard to find people who do great work. It seriously is, when you have a business like yours, if you are amazing at it, you become like the hidden secret behind the scenes and it's a completely different situation from somebody who's not great and they're wondering why they're not growing or why they're not getting referrals. Referrals to me are an indicator that your customer experience, your customer delivery is excellent, and people want to share you and they want to tell people how they did the thing. You're always behind the scenes so if anyone was looking without knowing the inside of my business, they wouldn't know.

Amber Kinney: Yeah, they would have no idea. I think that's one of the things. The very first piece of referrals is that you have to do good work for what you're doing, you have to be able to have a great customer experience, deliver what you say you're going to deliver, and be consistent—on my side and consistent because it's ongoing work—over time, and that's the very first thing that you have to do.

Racheal Cook: The culture of “grow as fast as you can” gets wrong because you have to have these internal things in place to grow and if you start growing too fast, usually the work is what starts to suffer. You don't have enough capacity, you don't have enough people, you don't have enough support. A huge part of that, and that's part of the whole, “Can you scale with referrals?” it's like, “Yeah, you can,” and you have to understand how your business operates and make sure that you can keep up with the number of people coming in to find you.

Amber Kinney: Exactly, and not over promising but I'd rather under promise and over deliver every time and then really getting familiar with what is my infrastructure, how much capacity do we really have to help people at what level. Honestly, the other piece for us has been really honing in on who we work with best and what we do best and when we're super clear with that, we can deliver for them but we can also be really clear about who would be great referrals as well.

Racheal Cook: Then you send them out. I think that is so huge because sometimes, especially with service-based businesses, I find that they start just adding on more and more things they can do, and then it gets to the point where it's so unwieldy and they have no specialty, which means their systems probably suck and they're not as good at delivering what they've promised. It's been fun to watch you get this clear because at this stage, I'm one of very few people who actually get to talk to you on a regular basis. Everybody else is working with people behind the scenes in your team but having that clarity of what type of businesses you work with must make it so much easier for them to go implement what they're doing.

Amber Kinney: Completely. We did finally hit a point where we had to be really clear. It's a simplification, narrowing down of like what are we really, really good at and how can we make that replicable if we want to continue to grow? How can we make it replicable, continue to grow, and not have it all be dependent on me and put me in the middle and be the bottleneck for all of our growth? We could not do what we do today if I was the only person in that position.

Racheal Cook: That's such an interesting thing too, to think about because it means you, even though it's The AK Collective, you aren't the bottleneck at this point. I think some people also feel like, “Well, if I'm getting referrals, they're going to want to work only with me. They won't want to work with my team.

Amber Kinney: They'll work with my team and I tell everyone who, if they do their intake call with me or I did the sales call or whatever it is, they're going to get better results and better service and more attention from my team than they would if they were working directly with me, so I can come in and do what I do best and help there but then my team can do what they do best as well and they can get it done and they can uphold our level of deliverability and how we really want that experience to be for our people.

Racheal Cook: I love that. We've busted all the myths. It is scalable, it's sustainable, you can do great work, you can have your team take on working with those referrals. I feel like that busted out so many different myths that we hear about people who are like, “Should I bother? How does it work?” Let's get into the “how does it work” too, how do you actually get referrals? Because the first thing is to do great work.

Amber Kinney: Do great work.

Racheal Cook: It’s official, we are fast approaching the final stretch of 2021. It’s that time of the year when we’re starting to look ahead for what we want to accomplish in 2022. I know you’re a high-achieving entrepreneur who loves the fresh start of the New Year. And you’re ready to have a real plan to yes to strategic action steps and say no to shiny objects that keep you spinning your wheels in your business. That’s why I’m so excited to announce the 100% free 5-day Plan Your Best Year Ever challenge starting on November 1st. In five days, I’m going to walk you through a strategic planning process that will help you to map out your business and marketing strategy for 2022, month-by-month, so you’ll have a real profit plan that helps you to stay focused on your goals. All you have to do is head over to rachealcook.com/bye and join us.

Racheal Cook: The second thing that you've done really well, and because I've known you for so long now, I've seen you do these things, is you tell people when you have spots available.

Amber Kinney: We do, and usually I do just casually, very intentionally but I know we have openings or I know people who are our ideal clients who know people who are also our ideal clients. I definitely let them know like, “I just brought on our couple new team members, we have a couple of open spots. If you know of anyone, just let me know or connect us or I'll reach out, you reach out,” whatever it is, but making that connection and so it's not always as formal as I think people feel like it has to be but when I know we have openings, just I let people know, and often it's as casual as just being on a different call or sending a quick email.

Racheal Cook: Yeah, and you just hinted at something there that I think is so important, it doesn't have to be super formal, it can be very casual, approachable, “Hey, a quick email to let you know we just brought on team members, they're amazing, we have capacity to take on (whatever it is that you insert service here).”

Amber Kinney: Exactly.

Racheal Cook: I've seen other friends who run service-based businesses and it's very much the same thing. It's a voice memo, it is a text message, it is an email, it's when we're talking just for a catch-up call like, “Hey, by the way, I'm looking for a client for this. If you know anybody, let me know.” I think we tend to forget it doesn't have to be so complicated. You don't have to have a super formal thing and it could just be like, “Could you connect me with somebody who's looking for someone like me?” Because if you’re in business, you probably know other people.

Amber Kinney: Exactly, and honestly, our other clients don't want to refer us someone that's not going to be a good fit, they want whoever they're referring to have a good experience as well from both sides. There's a little bit more in it and that person comes in a little bit more warm and has already gone through a little bit of almost vetting process to make sure that it might be a good fit because everybody's invested and everybody wants it to work out.

Racheal Cook: I think that's a great point too that they are often better clients because often, they're being, in that referral process, the person who is referring them is thinking about their own experience and what they've gotten out of it and the results they've gotten. They're giving also, on the flip side of that, they're a better fit for you to work with but also that person referring has done a huge amount of heavy lifting and giving that stamp of approval saying, “I loved working with this person. I trust this person. They do great work.” When they're giving you a referral, they're really saying, “This is somebody I trust to provide this service to you.”

Amber Kinney: 100%. I know we said it's usually very casual and it's usually back and forth but there's always some gratitude piece that's mixed in there. It's letting people know but also when you get a good match and someone sends me a good match, they get a card or they get something or thank you, it's like remembering to acknowledge it, it doesn't have to be some set formal program but I think that when you let people know and they share, there's always that making sure it feels good all around.

Racheal Cook: Again, that's not a formal referral system where they know that when they give this referral, they're getting something out of it.

Amber Kinney: No, it's not.

Racheal Cook: You've sent me things over the years too and it's always so fun to walk up the steps of the house and see like, “Oh, there's a fun package,” and it's flowers or something. It's a way to build the relationship and to solidify that relationship. It also makes me think, “This is someone I love giving business to. I want you to succeed. I want you to hit your goals and work with great people.” Taking the time to do that, it's just so easy to forget about in this day and age, not many people do this, and I have to say some of my favorite people to work with are people who think like this. For example, I worked with my friend Nicole Otchy, I hired her, she's a personal stylist and she works specifically with women entrepreneurs, CEOs, and leaders in all sorts of industries, and she did all of my styling over the last couple of years.

There was a point last year where she was running a course and I had taken the course, being in the first little cohort, it was so great, and so when she came around and ran it again, I saw her post on Instagram about it. I shared on my Instagram and then I also shared the interview that she and I did about the challenges a lot of women have with visibility and how style can be a way to help you become more confident and step into that visibility. She told me that one share made a huge impact in her launch and how she was able to get people into that program. For me, I'm in that state, I'm always thinking about it. But because she made it shareable, she let me know it was coming up, it was so easy for me, the person giving the referrals or connecting with people, and then she sent me a sweet gift that was there like a couple weeks later. I was like, “What is she sending me something for?” She was like, “That share that you gave that really drove people to me and it made the launch a success.” I was like, “Oh, yeah.”

Amber Kinney: There's another point in there and what you're sharing is that a lot of times, people have hesitation about asking for referrals or mentioning that they have openings because they feel like it's a burden for the other person. But if you listen to you just sharing that story, that is enjoyable. You enjoyed being able to do it, you felt good about being able to share a quality person to help the people who need her but also help her. I think that's important to remember in this mix as well is that whenever I share somebody or refer somebody or connect good people, I feel good too. I'm not into whatever I'm getting out of it, it's something people enjoy being able to do for other people.

Racheal Cook: It is and I think this is something that when I started really making this a practice and really thinking about giving referrals, I always get them back right. Now, I have this relationship with people where because I send them referrals, they send them right back to me. No one has referred more people to me than Shannon Siriano Greenwood. I do my best to refer all sorts of people to come to her event at Rebelle Con. I talk about Rebelle Con as an example all the time. I share from when I'm at the events and it has built not just a great business relationship but a great friendship, which I also love because finding like-minded women is sometimes tough. When you nurture these relationships, at this level, it's no longer about like, “Well what can you do for me?” It's just really sharing information and resources and making connections without it feeling transactional. I think that's what I'm trying to get at. It doesn't ever feel transactional to ask for referrals or to share referrals because the relationship is there.

Amber Kinney: Exactly.

Racheal Cook: I think that might be part of why some people are really struggling with referrals too is because they haven't built the relationship enough to where it feels comfortable. Because if you came to me at any point and said, “Hey, I'm looking for another client at your level,” I would be thinking immediately like, “Who do I got? I want her to succeed. Who do I have?” But if it was transactional, I probably wouldn't feel that way, if we didn't really know each other.

Amber Kinney: Yeah, no, and that's one of the things, it is somewhat of an intentional organic process but it's something that also is consistent. It's always on my mind, it's never gone. For us, obviously, if it's our main marketing strategy, it's clearly always on our mind but it's also something that's easy just to have happening at all times, it's not like we do a big push, it's not like we have to launch, it's not any of those things, it's like how do you make it a consistent part of your everyday building your business network and building the people that you know in your business and part of that conversation. It's not transactional.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I think this needs to become more of a practice and people need to stop making it so like step one, step two, step three. This just needs to be your way of thinking about how you do business in the world. It's about the people first and business only grows at the speed of the relationships that you are building. When you have more relationships with people who know you and understand you and know your work, that flow opens up and it's no longer transactional. That brings me to my final thing, which is networking. For two introverts sitting here on Zoom, we have found amazing clients and people to work with that we've hired, that have hired us I think because we both put ourselves out there not in a sitting around a table and swapping business cards networking way, but because we invest in our own development. You've taken just as many programs as I have I'm sure.

Amber Kinney: Exactly. Part of it is like I want to stay on the edge, I always want to be improving our skills, what we're able to offer, and keep up with technology pieces. But the other part is that's where my people are. Hey, I want to be there as well just to hear in their voices what they're working on or what they're struggling with or where we might be able to help, but also get to know them and build those relationships too. It's really all about how can I stay there and how can I know and build those relationships that support me but help my learning and then we can help more people as well.

Racheal Cook: Would you say that the things you have participated in, in the past that have been the most helpful as far as connections and building those relationships were the in-person things? I know you've done so many trainings and like these year-long programs, I can't even remember all the programs you've done.

Amber Kinney: I'm always doing something because my brain needs a little something.

Racheal Cook: But a lot of the ones you do have this in person component because there was a point where you were always in Toronto or something?

Amber Kinney: Yeah, in Montreal, I've been to New York, I've gotten to see some great places. It's odd because like you just said, two introverts and I'm not really a travel person but I think that definitely there's an increase in the connection I feel with the people who when there is a virtual and in-person component for sure. It's worth it every time I travel even if I try to talk myself out of it, all the way leading up to the airport, it’s 100% worth it and making the effort to get there and see people in person. Then the other piece of that is not hiding in my room once I get to the event, actually showing up for the social pieces and really making the effort to really meet people and know what's going on. It's an industry knowledge thing. It's not necessarily, “I'm looking for referrals,” or “I want to fill two seats,” it's really “How do I just know people and stay on top of my game?” which allows me to be able to help people and meet the right people.

Racheal Cook: What I find with stuff like that is, again, I'm not going in with the agenda that I'm going to collect these people's contacts, I'm going there with the agenda that I'm here to improve my leadership, I'm here to get on the cutting edge of whatever's going on that I think I can take back and help my clients with. What I find happens is yes, I'm super introverted but when I'm sitting at a table with five or six people and the conversations start happening and we're brainstorming or hot seating or whatever, when they get the chance to see how I work and what I think, they're like, “I need to talk to you after this.” That's when it becomes so easy to take that relationship to the next point. It's not even like you have to try, you're just being useful and helpful.

Amber Kinney: And generous. If I'm going to show up at those events and I'm going to give everything I have, I'm not going to hold anything back. Showing up and being generous and sharing what you have always leads to better connections, more relationships, and the other parts come organically, they just follow naturally.

Racheal Cook: You don't have to travel too, I just want to say that.

Amber Kinney: No, you don't have to.

Racheal Cook: I live in Richmond and for many years, I had pulled back from the Richmond business scene. I ran the yoga studio downtown before I really went in on this business and I was tired of walking into the grocery store and people who would come into the studio I was running. They were like, “Hey, Racheal,” and I'm sitting here with a baby on one hip and looking like a hot mess. I needed a little period of not really going out and doing a lot but what I've found over the last few years is that the more I get connected with this community, the more flows my way and it has been amazing. Even though I have clients all over the world, just having some of the contacts I have here now has changed the game for me. It's made me feel more connected to my business in a way. It doesn't feel any more like I'm just sitting at home in front of my computer all day, it's like I have a real community here, I can see even if I'm not traveling.

Amber Kinney: Exactly. I think there's a good balance there and it's been really great to watch the Richmond community come together even from afar just to see all of you guys start to come together and I'll come visit, but it's been really nice to see. I definitely would say that there's a way that works for people and we just have to figure out what it is and then do it consistently. It can be a mix. I also don't travel more than like two or three times a year anymore and most of it is virtual, and I don't have a great big local community, I just never have, which is fine, that's what works for me.

Racheal Cook: It's too hot in Arizona.

Amber Kinney: Because it's too hot in Arizona, so I'm not going to go outside.

Racheal Cook: If you can go outside without melting for more than two months of the year, then you could probably have a thriving group.

Amber Kinney: Exactly. I could have a great one. But I think it really truly is like finding what works for you and then being dedicated to it and being intentional about showing up for your community and building the relationship piece.

Racheal Cook: I love it. I hope everybody listening to this got so much value from this conversation. To me, like I said, getting referrals is a solid indicator that you are doing great work, you're taking great care of your clients, and that you are prioritizing the relationships, whether they're your client relationships or your peer relationships or whatever, that usually tells me you're going to be a whole lot more fun to work with, a lot easier to work with when we know that you are that type of business owner who cares about the people that are in your orbit. It goes a long way. That's for sure.

Amber Kinney: It does, for sure.

Racheal Cook: Any other thoughts as we wrap up our conversation on referrals?

Amber Kinney: I think the only other piece is just not only to think about who's going to refer you but to make sure you're offering referrals to other people as well. It's a relationship and connections. However much you can do for others, they can do for you and so just being open to doing both is amazing and can create great things.

Racheal Cook: It doesn't necessarily need to be a client referral either, it could be a connection you feel like would be a great peer referral. I get those all the time. I literally just today, when I went over to the new office space, introduced my designer to the team that's going to do all the new flooring and all that and they were like, “Oh,” I had a room full of women getting ready to renovate an office and they're like, “Wow, I've never been in a room full of women getting ready to renovate an office, it's always the men.” Instant connection, now they're connected they're like, “We have to swap war stories, like go for it.”

Amber Kinney: Completely.

Racheal Cook: That’s why I only work with women. But it was one of those things where now, realtors, contractors, and designers all know each other now just because I brought them together. I didn't do it because there's something in it for me, that's not why I did it, but it's so cool to see. It made me so happy to see those connections happen.

Amber Kinney: Exactly, for sure.

Racheal Cook: Awesome. Amber, where should we send people if they want to learn about how to work with your team inside of The AK Collective?

Amber Kinney: You can find us online. We're at theakcollective.com or you can send us a note at hello@theakcollective.com.

Racheal Cook: Just know that you'll probably have to actually get a referral to her to become a client. Thank you so much for joining me today. This was such a great conversation.

Amber Kinney: Thank you so much. It was great.

Racheal Cook: There you have it. I hope this conversation was really helpful and informative for you, especially if you want to be focusing on building real relationships in your business. Like we said in the conversation, business grows at the speed of relationships. The more you invest into your relationships, you are going to get back so much more than you can imagine. Here's a quick summary of the five key things we said about building a more referable business: First, do good work. Do good work, and not just good work like the end deliverable, have a great customer experience. When people are easy to work with, they are such a joy to send more business to. If you are a great service provider, you're a great coach, you're a great photographer, you're a great course creator, whatever it is that you do, if you have given me an incredible experience and the end result, the outcome was amazing, I am probably going to be shouting your name from the rooftops. But if the experience sucked, it doesn't matter how great the outcome was, but if the experience was terrible, I'm not going to want to send people your way. Do great work.

The next thing is let people know your availability. Let them know when you are accepting clients. Let them know how you are working with people right now. It's kind of Networking 101, you have to not just build a network, you have to nurture that network, and that means updating people on what your projects are and what you're excited about next and letting them know when you have new availability coming up. Especially if you're a service provider and you have limited capacity, if you want people to send referrals to you, let them know first, especially if you find someone who's a great referral partner who always sends you great people, that would be the first person I call to let them know if we have something coming up. I think this is something that we both love talking about, let people know your availability and make it easy to share what you are doing.

This is the third little point here: Make it easy to share what you're doing. This could be, like I said, in our conversation, I shared some things that a friend had posted on Instagram. I might forward an email. Make sure it's easy for people to share your good work. Make sure it's easy for people and don't hold back from letting them know that something is coming up because you never know who's watching and who's going to hit forward and send that email along and say, “Hey, this amazing person is now working with people. You need to talk to her.”

Along the same lines, refer other people. This is not a transaction. This is relationship building. If you want to get referrals, you need to be giving referrals. It's not to be like checking things off the box, it's just making sure you're paying attention to your relationships, investing in your relationships, connecting with people. Even us introverts who aren't often out in the world and we sometimes find ourselves feeling overwhelmed with keeping up with people, make it part of your practice to refer others and it will always come back to you. It'll help you to be more generous when you know if you're letting people know your best connections, they're going to give it back. It's just part of how the whole ecosystem works. It's that reciprocity because now you're top of mind for them as well.

The final piece here is networking. None of this is meant to be in the old school, glad handing, back slapping type of smarmy person way that I think a lot of us think of when we think of networking, think of it instead as maybe just connecting, connecting with people. Connect with people. Get in rooms. Get around tables where you can make connections and build real relationships. This is why I do attend events. When I can, I definitely try to. Even if I can't attend, like if there's no big event happening or I'm not necessarily part of some leadership development program or something, if I'm not in something like that, I still make it a point to bring people together. If I am not actually in something or I don't see any event happening, I'll figure out like, “Who can we have lunch with? Who can we connect people with?” It goes so incredibly far in building just a business full of people you love doing business with. I absolutely love this conversation so much. I hope you do too. If you want to share any insights or feedback, please connect with me over on Instagram and I'll be looking to continue the conversation over there. Have a great one.