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Follow the Person, Not the Position

By Andrew Sobel, Big 4 Guest Blogger

Andrew Sobel New Headshot 2014

A client of mine was promoted to a very senior position in a large, Fortune-100 company. She had been the deputy in her area, and was now at the top. She told me that the day her promotion was announced in the newspapers, she got dozens of calls from suppliers wanting to do business with her. “Do you know what I said to each of them?” she told me. “I asked them, very politely, ‘Where were you five years ago?’”


The vendors trying to sell to her were suddenly pushing water uphill. They had violated a fundamental principle—I call it a Law—about relationships: Follow the person, not the position.

Portrait of a large group of business people.

I’m often asked, “How can I build more relationships with CEOs and other top executives?” One of the best long-term strategies is to develop relationships with smart, motivated, interesting, and ambitious people, even if they’re not in an important job right now. And then, follow them throughout their careers.

Really important people—those who are at the top of their careers in any field—have brought their advisors along with them over many years. While it is not impossible to break into someone’s inner circle after they have achieved great success, it’s also not an easy task.

Whether you’re 20 or 50, you know interesting people who are going places. Follow them, stay in touch with them, and cultivate your relationship with them over many years. The fruits will be enormous. Not only will they help your career, but—perhaps more important—you will have an indelible impact on their success as well.

Start by making a list of people you know who are not yet at the peak of their success or position. Pick passionate, motivated, talented individuals. Do you know what their agenda is? How can you help them accomplish their goals?


Do you have an example you can share about a long-term relationship you maintained with an up-and-comer? Leave a comment, below.


In this two minute video I talk in more depth about the Third Law of Power Relationships: Follow the person, not the position

Anyone who buys a copy of my new book, Power Relationships, can download the free 90-page Planning Guide I’ve prepared  at Power Relationships Planning Guide

I help companies and individuals develop winning marketplace strategies and build clients for life. My bestselling books include Power RelationshipsPower QuestionsAll for One, and Clients for Life. I spent 14 years at Gemini Consulting, where I was a Senior Vice President and the Chief Executive of Gemini’s Italian subsidiary. For the last 17 years I’ve headed my own consulting firm, Andrew Sobel Advisors.

I’d like to hear from you. Contact me at

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