Barrett firearms friends and I at SHOT show 2023.
(Photo by Kenzie Fitzpatrick)

How To Build Relationships: Long-Term Industry Connections

Learning how to build relationships may sound simple, but so many people fall short of making meaningful connections that last. I attend hundreds of events yearly, from shooting competitions to writer events to our industry awards show. I meet CEOs, famous influencers, and professional shooters people would die to meet in real life. But it may come as a surprise that I treat them the same way I treat the employees, caterers, and event staff, that are just trying to do their jobs to support whatever event I’m at. At the end of the day, we all are people with the exact basic needs as everyone else. 

The great people of outlier knives at SHOT show 2023
(Photo by Kenzie Fitzpatrick)

How To Build Relationships That Matter

People fail to understand how small a world we live in and how someone we meet today could be in a position of power or leadership tomorrow. People will always remember how you treat them and make them feel. I’ve been on the reciprocating end of some not-so-kind interactions, and those people have found themselves needing or wanting something from me later in life. I’m a firm believer that you reap what you sow.

I take pride in building relationships, and I genuinely care about people. Instead of constantly thinking, “what’s in it for me” when you meet someone new, reframe your mind to, “how can I add value to this person or relationship?” Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about making friends and how that’s changed my life for the better:

1. Start with Hello

I’ve never met a stranger. A simple hello or hi goes a long way in making friends. There are billions of people in this world, and you will likely run into a few of them along the way. Think about how often you’re stressed, tired, lonely, excited, or whatever emotions you feel regularly. How good does it feel when someone asks you about your day, is excited for you, or makes an effort to talk to you? People desire connection and creating conversations. Not everyone has someone at home or a friend they can talk to, so don’t be afraid to converse at the grocery store, on your next dental visit, or along your travels.

2. Remember Names and Faces

Have you heard someone say, “I’m so bad with remembering names”? Sure, there are learning disorders, memory issues, and genuine problems with remembering someone’s name. Still, it doesn’t feel good to introduce yourself to someone a dozen times before they finally start to remember who you are. 

I think we all, as humans, feel good about ourselves when someone remembers our name and, even at the bare minimum, remembers our faces. So, if this sounds like you, my challenge is to be intentionally better about remembering people’s names.

​We all want to be seen and heard, so the number one thing we all should get better at is remembering the people we meet along the way. You may have to work harder to remember a name by writing it down in a notebook, in your cell phone notes, associating a name with something that will trigger your memory of it, or by repeating it a dozen times. It will take work to be better and retain the information, but remembering names or faces is the start of building lasting relationships.

You can build great relationships that last a lifetime at events like the GUNDIES.
(Photo by Kenzie Fitzpatrick)

3. Find Common Interests

Learning how to build relationships starts by figuring out what you have in common. I’m not interested in discussing the weather, where you’re from, or your day job. Let’s dig a little deeper here. When you call up your friends, do you spend most of your time swapping small talk or having deeper conversations?

​Some easy conversation starters can include asking about their family, where their favorite place to travel is, what TV show they’re currently binging, their favorite musician, a bucket list item they have, and anything that could spark an interest you may also have. When you share a common interest and talk about it, you’ll remember their name later because you have a deeper connection.

4. Learn Something About Their Passion or Hobby

One of the hardest things we humans struggle with is being able to relate to someone else. I struggle to connect with other women who aren’t into hunting, fishing, or shooting guns. That doesn’t mean I can’t be friends with women who don’t share these interests. It just means I may need to work harder to connect with them.

​I recommend reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People book. It’s one of the first books I read in college and is still relevant today. When you discover someone’s passion or hobby, dive deeply to learn more about it. Ask them about their journey into the hobby, what they love about it, and what’s next for them as they grow into it. You don’t have to share the same passion or hobby to connect, but you do have to take an interest to build a trust circle with people to show you genuinely care about their hobbies, interests, dreams, and goals.

5. Give and Don’t Expect to Receive

Always give more than you get; also, learn not to expect things in return for giving. I always ask how I can help others and strive to always do more for them than they ever do for me. Everything you put out into the universe has a direct effect on your life. Putting in hard work, donating resources, giving time, whatever it is, comes back tenfold. As you make new friends and build deeper relationships, your trust circle will grow to include people who will help you in ways you never imagined.

Long lasting relationships take time and effort just like anything else in life.
(Photo by Kenzie Fitzpatrick)

Long Lasting Friendships

Here are a few quick examples of how friends I made years ago changed my life for the positive later:

1. I volunteered to help teach marketing and how to pitch a business for several Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) cohorts at FSU. Years later, two graduates who went on to found successful businesses contracted me to do their marketing.

2. I introduced myself with the famous “Hello, I’m Kenzie” at SHOT Show 2022 to two co-founders I had been following on social media. I now am an Account Manager for them and am thankful for the opportunities they have given me to work with brands.

3. I wouldn’t be writing this article if I hadn’t connected with an editor for Athlon Outdoors at SHOT Show 2022. We just started chatting and eventually talked about my passion for shooting and writing, and I’ve been working with Athlon ever since!

Relationships That Last

There are too many examples of how impactful relationships can be for the trajectory of our personal and financial success. Just by attending events, introducing myself, and always wanting to help others, I’ve been blessed with incredible opportunities and friendships I’m so thankful for. Always remember to thank and appreciate those who have helped you along the way.

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