Let’s be honest, how many readers know (without Googling it) what a keiretsu is? One of the highlights of my career was working with two global Japanese insurance companies back in the 90s. It was an amazing professional experience. I had a chance to learn about their culture and way of doing business.  A corner stone of the Japanese business model is the keiretsu.

The word, translated literally, means headless combine. The way I have described it over the years is a powerful chamber of commerce — organizations coming together, collaborating, working with each other. It is a corporate structure that ties other corporations together. From a business perspective, the members of your keiretsu (corporate family) act as adviser, business partner, friend, informal board, but also client. What is amazing about the keiretsu is that members make sure they did business with each other. This was powerful to see. In good times you thrived and in difficult times you survived, you had your keiretsu members there.

What I have tried to do over the years, since first being exposed to the keiretsu model, is to create my own network. For example, I am a graduate of the Isenberg School at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I look forward to working with and working for fellow alums. I look for clients who want to be part of my keiretsu and I try to connect my clients with my clients, whenever possible. Keep in mind that as a member of a keiretsu, you are not placing all of your business with your fellow members, but you are placing some business with them and most importantly, you are a business adviser to your fellow members.

Here is a personal example I can share with you. One of my clients is a regional law firm. This is the firm that I use for employee benefits-related advice and direction, from general employment law to the Affordable Care Act. In addition, this is the firm that has becomes my subject matter expert when I host an event for my clients related to health and welfare. One final step — when my other clients are seeking legal advice, I direct them to this law client.

Let me give you one of my trade secrets for how to start your keiretsu today. Step one: Start with your clients, pick your top 20, determine what sector they are in and see if you can make introductions amongst them. Have a lunch and learn or social event after work to host everyone. Let them know that the event is about them — you making introductions to help them grow their businesses with your most valued asset, your other clients.

Step two: Draw out an organizational chart. This keiretsu will be your personal board of directors and advisers. The following are who I have included in mine: banker, CPA, attorney, P&C/risk consultant and a technology consultant.

Step three is the most important part. You have to live this: Your team, your office and your clients need to understand the power of the keiretsu. At the end of the day, we need to work with those we enjoy and those who want to work with us. We need to realize that not every prospect will be a good client and that we are not the right fit for every company we call on. When we build our keiretsu, we are bringing together like-minded people and companies, that have similar philosophies and most of all, are focused on mutual success and partnership.

For those who would like to hear more about building your keiretsu don’t hesitate to drop me a note.  Good luck!

Daboul is vice president national accounts at Employee Family Protection, Inc. Reach him at (800) 229-5129 or vad@efpnow.com.

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