Dear Friends & Colleagues:

This week’s excerpt from my new book, How To Win Client Business, is from Chapter 15: I Can’t See the Forest for the Trees. In this chapter, I provide practical guidance on how we go about building our professional ecosystem and developing trust-based relationships with those we wish to serve.

In addition to the text excerpt below, I’m providing a short 5 minute audio version as well – narrated by me. So, if you’d rather listen to a sample from Chapter 15 in lieu of the text excerpt, simply click here. (Note: If your preferred format is audio, the audiobook is now available on Amazon and is beautifully narrated by Barry Abrams – one of the best in the industry.)

Here’s this week’s excerpt. I hope you enjoy it!



Chapter 15: I Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

Segmenting Your Ecosystem into Three Distinct Groups


Sometimes aspiring rainmakers struggle at first in building their professional

ecosystem – not so much the conceptual part, but the doing part. Most professionals

quickly grasp the importance of building an ecosystem of individuals who

care and support one another. And we understand the value in having 200 individuals

who can influence our careers.


The 200-person ecosystem idea is encouraging – it’s far less intimidating than

10,000 or 1 million people. But building relationships with several hundred people

is also a bit daunting. It’s hard enough to maintain close relationships with a

significant other, our family, and a handful of close friends. Relationships take time.

We have to nurture our relationships if they are to grow. How am I possibly going

to do this with hundreds of people?


One of the secrets to effectively building your ecosystem is to see it not as

one whole, but as three distinct groups. The first group is your inner circle; I call

this Tier 1. Tier 1 is comprised of the most important people in your ecosystem.

For most of us, Tier 1 is made up of a few dozen people, maybe 25 to 50 individuals.

These are the ones we are going to focus on and spend the most time with in

building a close relationship.


Tier 2 is comprised of individuals who are also important to us, but not to the

same degree as our inner circle. They are on the outer edge of Tier 1, and we’ll also

spend time with these people, but we won’t invest the same amount of time and

effort into building close one-on-one relationships. For most of us, there will be

roughly 50 to 100 individuals in Tier 2.


Tier 3 is comprised of the people who we need to know and who need to know

us, but we probably won’t have close relationships with them. This group is comprised

of somewhere in the order of 100 people whom you will stay in contact with

a few times a year.


When we think about our network as three distinct groups, it gives us a framework

to plan our daily time commitment to each. Doing so allows us to schedule

more time and attention to those closest to us and less time with those further away.


The three distinct ecosystem groups are:

  • Tier 1: 25–50 people
  • Tier 2: 50–100 people
  • Tier 3: 100+ people


The Tree Farm Analogy

My father became a tree farmer in his retirement years. He has about 200 acres of

farmland in SC where he grew up. Over the past decade, he has devoted much of

his time to nurturing the pine trees that he has planted on his family’s farmland.

Nearly every week, he spends a day at his farm caring for his trees.


My dad jokes that he’ll never see the fruits of his labor – the trees will take

25 years to fully mature. This may be true – the 25-year part – but I think he has

enjoyed the fruits of his labor. The enjoyment for him is in the weekly stewardship.

He enjoys working on his farm, watching his trees grow each season, and seeing the

wildlife flourish among the new pine forest.


I think there is value in thinking about our professional ecosystem as a tree

farm and in seeing ourselves as tree farmers. The fruits of our labor may take many

years to fully materialize, but there is daily joy in caring for our ecosystem and in

watching it grow.


Imagine that you have a 200-acre farm – this is your professional ecosystem.

In the center of your land you’ll build a homestead – a beautiful farmhouse on 20

acres. Your home will be surrounded by a barn, a workshop, a vegetable garden,

and a few acres of fruit trees. This is where you will spend 80% of your days. You’ll

care for your homestead. There will be well-worn paths between the house, barn,

workshop, garden, and fruit trees. Your homestead is your inner circle, or Tier 1



But there is much more to your tree farm. Surrounding your homestead is

about 50 acres of walnut trees that you have planted. There are also paths from

your homestead reaching out into the walnut trees, but these paths are less worn.

You care for these trees too, but it’s not an everyday or weekly activity. Perhaps you

venture out into the walnuts every few months to check on things. Maybe the wind

has blown down a few limbs or a tree needs a little special attention. Think of these

middle 50 acres as your Tier 2 ecosystem.


Finally, we have the outskirts of our tree farm. This part of your farm is

made up of about 100 acres of oak trees that you have planted beyond the walnuts.

The paths grow thinner still as you walk among the oaks. When was the

last time you visited these trees; was it last fall? You do make it a point to care

for these trees as well, but you simply don’t have enough time in the day to get

out here very often. Your focus is on caring for your homestead and the surrounding

walnut trees. Your outer 100 acres of oaks is your Tier 3 ecosystem.


When we think of our professional relationships as a tree farm, it becomes

clearer where we need to devote the majority of our time. Naturally, just like the

20-acre homestead, we’ll spend most of our time caring for the few dozen people

who will have the greatest impact on our career. We’ll connect with these individuals

every month of the year. Every few months, we’ll check in on our Tier 2 and

look for ways to be helpful. Once or twice a year, we connect with our outer circle

of colleagues to see what’s going on and look for ways to add value.



Click here to order your copy of my new book, How To Win Client Business, today!