I’ve interviewed David Bradford before, as has Forbes reporter Susan Adams and contributor Kathy Caprino. He’s the former CEO of Fusion-IO and HireVue (still serving as HireVue’s Chairman), and the person who persuaded Steve “The Woz” Wozniak to accept the first position he’s held since Apple Computer (with Fusion-IO). He’s a friend and associate of NFL great Steve Young, Mitt Romney, Donny Osmond, and Larry and Shawn King. In fact, Bradford is often considered one of the most connected people on earth with an active database of more than 24,000 connections. (Disclosure: I have no business relationship with Fusion-IO or HireVue, but since March 15 have participated in the launch of Bradford’s personal book, Up Your Game.)
As I’ve been writing of late about the strategies of the world’s greatest power connectors, today I will share the six principles Bradford used to amass the golden connections that have powered his storied career. These are the steps that allowed him to raise $174 million in for two technology companies, one (Fusion-IO) named a Forbes #1 Most Innovative Company and the other, HireVue, acknowledged as nation’s 44th fastest growing company on the Inc. 500/5000 list for 2014. These are the same principles Bradford maintains can accelerate the success of any executive and entrepreneur (and can accelerate any life achievement as well). From his presentation at last week’s Big Business Expo in Salt Lake City the strategies are as follows:
- Start Up. Don’t ever show up at a business event thinking about what you hope to obtain for yourself. Be a giver. “The law of reciprocity works,” Bradford maintains. For example, I did a favor for my friend Don Basile, expecting nothing at all in return. I heard from him next in 2008. “I’ve found it. The greatest tech company to emerge, and its in Salt Lake City. We want you to join. “ That favor entirely changed the financial course of my life and of our family. That company, Fusion-IO, grew to $3.8B in size. All the result of a meeting that came about as a kindness to somebody else.
- Show Up. Ninety percent of success comes from the simple act of showing up, Bradford says. Getting involved in events face to face, participating and asking questions are vital keys to success.
- Follow Up. Bradford holds the honor of giving Steve Wozniak his first job after Apple—the result of follow up to a presentation Bradford would have honestly preferred not to give. Pressed by a friend to make a presentation to the Utah Bar Association, Bradford realized it would mean a drive to Sun Valley, seven hours away. But he’d committed, and so he packed up to go (but packed up his golf clubs and decided he’d at least get some golfing in after). Bradford made the presentation, to 500 people, and then came to discover the net person on the agenda was Steve Wozniak. Now what? He could golf or he could stay to meet Steve. He sat in the front row, next to Wozniak’s executive assistant. She insisted that David and Steve meet. Bradford shook Wozniak’s hand – immediately established a LinkedIn connection – and sent a message of follow up, which is his practice after every event. The result—a friendship with Wozniak and the opportunity to make the famous hire that had a great influence on the technology design for Fusion-IO.
- Stand Up. “You can follow every other step, but unless you’re a stand up person in life, nothing else will make a difference,” Bradford says. “Your credibility is everything. Never do anything that causes someone else to question your credibility.” Bradford recalls the story of Utah entrepreneur John Huntsman Sr. who years ago was involved in the sale of one of the world’s largest private chemical companies. Huntsman was selling and agreed to a price of $55M. But during the months of due diligence, the market for this chemical company became substantially better. Sales skyrocketed. Fair market value for the firm would have now been closer to $250M than the agreed upon $55M. Most any participant would be seeking help from his attorneys in finding a way to cancel the transaction or to change the terms of the deal. The buyer fully anticipated Huntsman would be hoping to alter the deal. But he didn’t. “I shook your hand at $55 million,” he said. “Let’s close the deal.” It was an experience that no one present has ever forgotten, and is what being a standup person is all about, Bradford says.
- Link Up. Find the ways to establish a personal and memorable connection with every individual you meet. For example, Bradford had the chance to hear author Malcolm Gladwell speak at Utah’s Sundance resort. Gladwell spoke about the process of writing his book, but he also spoke at length about Google, and the “Google family.” So Bradford walked up to Gladwell and said, “Have you ever met Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google?” No, he had not. “I’d be happy to introduce you,” he said. But Bradford took his follow up a giant step further – he made the effort to find out exactly what makes Gladwell tick. From a Google search, he discovered that in high school, Gladwell had set a Canadian record by running a 4:15 mile. Bradford brought it up – even brought forward a photo he’d found. Now he had won not only a follow up opportunity with a brilliant individual but he had gained the chance to re-engage on a more personal level (and not surprisingly, he and Gladwell have now become friends).
- Scale Up. It is important to nurture your growing network of contacts with care, Bradford says. Spend dedication and time in the networking and follow up process, but continually learn the ways to work smarter instead of harder as well. As most people are going to bed, Bradford spends a little more time every evening to follow up with the new individuals he’s met and engaged. While he sometimes receives dozens of new requests to connect every day, he avoids the temptation to simply say “yes” and move on. In every case he takes the time to look over the profile, study it, and get to know a little more about each of these new friends as an individual, to make sure to every extent possible that the new connection is a meaningful one.
Finally, Bradford credits his natural curiosity as a gift that makes it natural and easy to create a genuine connection in all circumstances and with most anybody he meets. His enthusiasm is palpable and his energy is always high.
He is eager to serve. At the Salt Lake presentation he laughs about one of the most insightful questions he’d received from a show attendee that day. “If you had a dog, and if I were to interview that dog, what would your dog say about the kind of person you are?” An unusual question, but one that would likely receive an affirmative response from the man whose wife (and others) have come to refer to as “The Human Internet.”