In the data center world, we read and hear so much about new technologies. We strive for the best new design criteria, appropriate tier rating, and PUE. We have cloud choices, temperature parameters, when to involve commissioning (BTW as early as possible,) DCIM, and to HPC or not to HPC. All critically important and the list goes on and on. However, we don’t talk enough or read about one of the most critically important factors in our industry, the “R” factor. Our relationships are the success behind it all. The differentiator, of course, is knowing the right qualified person and company to achieve success.

The data center relationship is not just the five 99999’s of Uptime that we all recognize. Rather, it is the data center relationships that are a different number all together, a one followed by two zeros, the 100% uptime of relationships both professional and personal. In the U.S., our small industry is approximately +10,000 professionals with a projected global revenue of $36 billion by 2017. However small in numbers, we remain an integral part of the e-commerce of the U.S and the world. We all recognize this as, of course, “mission critically” important.

We all attend various conferences from 7x24, AFCOM, Uptime, Gartner, cloud computing, HPC, and The Data Center Summit Series conferences, all measured by the ROI in many different ways, either financial cost of attending, size of attendance, or perhaps more importantly, the intellectual and relationship capital that it brings.

The overlooked valuable component to be gained at such conferences is the true relationship value. Many fundamental experiences of equal or greater value than the technical knowledge gained are newly formed or reinforced relationships. They are typically initiated by a colleague or friend saying, “I want to introduce you to someone I know who might be just the key to your mutual success.” The initial meeting may lead to discussions over coffee, lunch, dinner, or cocktails … and of course golf or fishing. I know this sounds simplistic and everyone does it, however, there is a huge and measurable difference between a casual meeting of a colleague and a relationship that ensures competency, confidentiality, and creditability. Over the past many years, there have been many significant and genuinely impactful relationships many of us have made in this fashion.

The secret recipe to this success is not a secret at all. However, it is a simple formula of credibility, competency, and trust. Specifically, and most importantly, as service providers, meaning we all have accountability, we are either a customer or a provider of services to someone either internally or externally, whether you are Google, Microsoft, or a health care, financial, manufacturing, oil and gas, or smaller company.

The question becomes how do you respond and where do you seek expertise from a trusted source when something inevitably goes wrong? As experience has taught us, things inevitably “go wrong.” After all, it’s not called mission critical by accident. (Get it? By accident!? Pun intended) Doing the right thing and always mindful that you are putting your name behind it all is the first line of the credibility test. Oftentimes giving a recommendation to help a customer, colleague, or friend without the expectation of anything in return and most importantly, respecting the confidentiality of it all can be of tremendous value. Smart, observant, and like-minded people will recognize this and return the favor.

I, among a select few of the most recognized names in our industry, have the good fortune to be part of a unique group of data center professionals from across the country. These individuals are close friends, colleagues, and, of course, subject matter experts. We, like many others in our industry, have practiced this approach. There remain circumstances where a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is required of course, but in the majority of these cases just your credibility and the hand shake introducing two good companies that can benefit one another builds your own relationship value. I take personal pride in observing the selfless act of giving when one of our group extends his or her hand to introduce someone that can not only solve a problem but could potentially save a company money. This could turn into a consulting opportunity or new business, but often times it’s a friendly gesture to connect two good companies. Basically, the results of the outcome are the same. In other words, “paying it forward” what has been given to you and giving it to someone else.

A personal example of productive relationships is the “Fishin Critical” outings which I enjoy every year. Recently, 40+ data center executives went fishing in Northern Minnesota and Canada. This relationship value building event is due to the organizational skills of my good friend Steve Manos. If you subscribe to the six degree of separation rule, meaning someone you know knows someone that you want to know, we all promote this concept. It might seem trite and too simplistic, but it really comes down to who you know, which is why building the right relationship value is such an integral part of achieving success. The great take away is that all of us have relationships from assisting with vendor selections, site selections, upgrades to existing facilities, colocation, consulting, brokerage, etc.

Thankfully, our industry is alive and well with tremendous, well-informed and experienced professionals who are advancing our industry every day and by extension, helping the global e-commerce community. The key is to meet the right person at the right time and build your relationship value with credibility, competency, and trust.