I'm Andy Kaplowitz, and I’m the new guy around here. 

Hopefully, you’ve read my Op-Ed from the August 19 edition so you know a little about me, but let me tell you a little bit more. 

My friends and family will tell you that I was born to be in marketing and sales, and I suppose that’s true. When I was seven years old, I convinced my parents to quadruple my allowance. I pulled in twice what my 10-year old brother Gary received.  When Gary figured this out (three weeks later), he cried foul, and I didn’t blame him. In the end, Gary's allowance remained unchanged, mine doubled to match his and I earned an extra $45 over three weeks.  Being the younger brother, I felt an obligation to make sure Gary understood what had just happened. Yeah, sibling rivalry is not necessarily a good thing – sorry, Gary.

In high school, I could raise money selling flower bulbs or chocolate bars like nobody else.  I even shipped a case of chocolate bars to Gary — who was in basic training at the time — with a note saying, “Share these with your buddies. The first batch is on me. If you want more, they’re a dollar a candy bar.” In one week I sold over $300 worth of chocolate to soldiers in New Jersey all the way from Bellingham.

By the time I had my own business in the mid-90s, my efforts in the art of persuasion became more refined. I had a sizable client base and saw an opportunity to leverage my profile in the business community by stepping in as the traffic controller for goods and services. This led to a preferred referral program where the fee for admission was the consistent referral of quality prospects. It was a win for all sides. I even introduced two couples that are still married to this day. In my world, that’s called being a Yenta, or matchmaker.

Fast forward to a few months ago, long before I knew that life would bring me to the Business Examiner. I found myself sitting with Arnie Aurellano, editor here at the BE, at a business luncheon. As I introduced him to other businesspeople in the room, Arnie remarked that it seemed as though I knew everyone, and if someone needed something, I could usually come up with at least one business I could recommend to address that need. Those of you who are fully engaged in your local business community understand that this is not necessarily a unique quality, but what is the difference between having that knowledge and putting that knowledge to work to help grow your business?  How can I take the fact that I know a guy and turn that into a business opportunity for me? That’s what this column is all about, and that’s why it’s titled “I know a guy…”

I love this job. I meet interesting people with diverse backgrounds, interests and varying degrees of ambition, goals, and focus.  It seems as though much of the business that gets done in the South Sound comes from relationship-driven efforts. That’s what I’m here to discuss with you. I’ll try to offer some insights and observations and I invite you to jump right in and share your thoughts.  Relationship-driven sales and marketing is as much an art as it is a science.  Let’s talk about both.

If our paths cross at a networking event, let’s talk about the decision making process.  How do you help your prospects make a definitive decision?  How do you hone your skills, or do you work on your craft?  As a buyer, what do you look for in the person you do business with?  What does the concept value added mean to you?  The questions are almost limitless, and if we compare notes, all of us can benefit from the collective knowledge of our vibrant and productive business community. 

Change brings growth, and growth brings opportunity.  This is simply an invitation to engage in an open dialogue about what works well, what we learn from what hasn’t worked.  That’s how we adapt to changing business dynamics, grow our businesses and find new opportunities, and THAT’S what this is all about.

And now, it's your turn.  How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?  How do you develop the relationships that propel your professional success?  I'd like to hear what you have to say about this, because I know a guy…