“I would love this business … if it didn’t have people in it.”

Have you ever said that?

What is it about having “people” in your business that is so taxing?

Well, people are complicated, messy, broken in places, and battle scarred. People are also talented, resilient, creative, and hard working.

You don’t get one side without the other. That’s why your relationship with your “people” is so important.

Think of a significant relationship in your life. Is it complicated, messy, broken, battle scarred? AND doesn’t it have a long list of benefits and good?


It’s because you are all in on making it work. Or when you are leaning all out, you spend the effort to lean back in.


Your ability to create a growing, lasting, excellent business comes down to your ability to connect with, do life with, inspire, and lead your “people.”

What’s keeping you from it? Here are a few challenges I’ve experienced been told multiple times:

“All I do is give and they just take.”

“There is no loyalty anymore. People will jump ship for another thousand dollars.”

“I’ve been sued for taking care of people. I’ll never make that mistake again.”

I get it. It’s not fair. It’s not without challenges. It costs you heart, mind, and soul … and money, don’t forget the money.

It is also rewarding.

A story that has always stumped me is when Jesus recruits his first two employees. He’s walking by where they are working and says “follow me!” all and they “at once dropped their nets (as they were fishermen) and followed him.”

Wait, what? Dude just rolls by, is good looking and has a nice voice and says – let’s go! And then people leave their jobs and families to go work with him?

Um … no thanks.

When you put the story in chronological order you find out that Jesus has hung out with these guys for almost a year. They have traveled together, eaten meals together, gone to a wedding together. Only after a relationship is built does he have the relational capital to ask for them to follow him.

If the Son of God had to build relationships to build a high trust high functioning team, so do you.

When you don’t have real relationships, you don’t have co-workers, friends, or ultimately followers.

You have employees.

Employees do the least that needs to be done, watch the clock, game the system, work for the weekend, and build for themselves.

Co-workers, friends, and followers do what is required and then some, enhance the system, work and build for each other.

“So are you saying I need to be best friends with all my employees?”

Nope. But you do need to invest time and energy in knowing who they are, how their life is going, and what makes them tick in and outside of work.

Yes, building relationships is an inefficient use of your time and energy in the day to day. But in the year to year, it’s the most valuable thing you can do for your company in terms of influence, impact, and value. That includes your bottom line too. A healthy culture can be felt and seen by potential buyers. AND you’ll enjoy work. Wouldn’t you like to work with friends?

Without relationships you cannot build a growing and lasting company. You can build a machine that is constantly eating you and the resources your business creates. And it makes you dislike “people.”

What do you need to start doing to start build relationships to evolve your people into co-workers, friends, and followers?

Dan Cooper
Post by Dan Cooper
April 16, 2021
Dan Cooper co-founded ej4, a video-based online training company, in 2003, and was its CEO until selling in 2012. During his time with ej4, he grew the company from a startup to a nationally-recognized firm, serving clients including Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple, Honeywell, Monsanto and Syngenta. Channel partners included SAP and Oracle. As of the 2012, ej4 was serving 1,000+ customers, delivering millions of program views, was highly profitable and debt-free. Today, he is the CEO of Acumen, a mastermind community platform built for CEOs and Owners of strong and growing companies. He and his wife, Ali, have three children and attend Cure of Ars church in Leawood, KS. Dan enjoys running, all things soccer — coaching, playing and watching —and burning all types of meat on the backyard barbecue grill.