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Matt Heinz

Guest Commentary: I have a ton of work to do today. But I’m spending most of my day on the golf course instead.

Today is the annual Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) golf tournament, and it’s an all-day affair. Pitch and putt contest in the morning, mid-day round of 18 holes, late afternoon meal and awards ceremony. But the length of the event, that’s part of its value.

In an age when we count our friends via Facebook and center our professional network on LinkedIn, there’s something special about spending a few hours away from the computer and office with people who matter to your job, your business or your career.

Where else do you get four hours alone with a partner, a colleague, or a sales prospect? When else can you literally run out of work things to talk about and really get to know the other person (or people) better?

Photo via Flickr

Business still works this way, of course. I’m talking about the relationship. Trust. It’s hard to build deep relationships and trust by sharing links on Twitter. But if someone gets to know me, who I really am, there’s a bond created. We share something together: live, offline, in real-time.

Past generations got this. Our parents did business this way. Entire books have been written about how to do it.

And golf is just one way to do it. Tennis. Long runs. Bridge. Pick your fancy. They all work.

Too often today, we don’t take the time to make these investments. We’re busy, focused on a thousand things at once. Our social networks are faster, more efficient, more organized.

They’re also more shallow. Undifferentiated. The relationships we have online are too often a commodity.

Spending a day on a golf course with 150 business leaders isn’t my most efficient marketing channel. But I know I’ll be spending time with people who also value not just a day in the sun, but time with colleagues and peers who equally value the slow art of relationship-building.

Instead of starting with business, we’ll start with putting. Instead of getting right to what I do for a living, I get to let others make fun of my futility in the sand trap.

For days and weeks after, I’ll have stories to share, inside jokes to reiterate, awful golf shots to reminisce about. These are natural reasons to stay in touch, and transition to business when the time is right.

We don’t value the time, quality, input, process and results that come from this kind of networking and relationship-building. But before the Internet, before our social networks, before our hyper-busy lives, this is how people did business. Not just with golf, but with time.

I’m not going to stop organizing my network online. I’m not going to stop using technology to meet people and nurture relationships.

But today, we’re playing golf.

Matt Heinz is president of Heinz Marketing, a Redmond-based sales & marketing firm. He’s playing as part of the GeekWire foursome at the WTIA tourney today. You can connect with Matt via emailTwitterLinkedIn or his blog.

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