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Let's Play Connect the Dots

Becoming a good investment: It's not a race, it's just a line.


That's the recurring reminder that pops up every Thursday on my phone at precisely 7:30 pm.

It's not a call to anyone in particular. It's a reminder to talk to someone that I've been out of touch with.

I've found that relationships are built on these moments.

Love at first sight might sound romantic. Here in reality though, professional and personal relationships build over time.

Entrepreneur-turned-venture-capitalist Mark Suster wrote back in 2010 about how to build investment relationships to get funding. "Meet your potential investors early," he says, and tell them "what you plan to achieve by the next time you see them." Then go and do it, and let them know.

Each of these interactions creates a data point. And just like a couple's engagement doesn't (usually) happen after the first date, one data point doesn't get you anywhere. One meeting or conversation is a singular measure of performance; it's certainly not enough to confidently make an investment or build trust. Suster argues for demonstrating small progress over time through updates and contact to build a linear relationship, eventually looking like this:

From Mark Suster's post: "Invest in Lines, Not Dots"

Movement up the y-axis is proof to the investor that the wheels are turning in the background, and you're not just standing still.

A thought process I get trapped in is that the performance updates need to be significant; but I remind myself each update or check-in is a chance to show thought-process, ability, and grit, regardless of the size of the performance increase. Progress happens slowly over time, so bring people on the journey. It's a chance to learn about each other. If someone invests in a company or a person that's just a dot, the investor is likely a dot to that company in turn.

No matter the y-axis title, progress is up and to the right. Want to establish trust at work? Or maybe start mentoring a young professional? The y-axis label could be Delivery or Humility; the client label becomes family, boss, spouse, friend, etc. Consistency being the key in all cases.

Building your personal brand slowly and consistently builds a strong line. People want to invest in that line. Circle Three is one way for me to nurture relationships and establish consistency in order to build a line. Imagine that, in 10 years you'll be able to say you were there for the first few dots. The writing establishes a dot each week. Hopefully the dots will continue to connect to form lines of reliability.

What lines are you building?


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