RX: The Relationship X-Factor

MAY 27, 2021
Author: Tyler Borders, CSO, Carnegie

The most valuable person in any company is not necessarily the CEO, the President, the Sales leader, or anybody in the E-Suite for that matter. The most valuable person in any company is somebody I termed the “Rx” back in 2017, and it has remained sticky ever since. There may be just one Rx in an organization, or many, depending on the size of the business. The Rx is not a formal position with a job description; rather, it’s a sort of “tag” that’s generated and assigned once achieved. It’s a tag that cannot be assigned by company leaders or self-selected—it is instead always determined by the client. This quintessential role is solely and purely earned.

Akin to James Cameron’s epic “Avatar” when a Na’vi finds their Toruk Makto and they connect for life, an Rx and its client imprint on one another. This bond typically lasts the entire lifespan of the account, and in many cases extends past the professional and into the personal, lasting a lifetime. Rx is non-transferrable, and it’s the lifeblood of business.

Rx stands for “Relationship x-Factor.”

I remember spending weeks, literally, locked in a conference room with the entire leadership team and external consultants working on “swim lane” mapping. I can only imagine the immense cost to the company to conduct this exercise. The stated goal was to identify all of the various positions in the company over a typical workflow, and define all of the roles and responsibilities of each position in the various “swim lanes.”

Weeks passed, and dozens of detailed posters lined the glass walls of the office. Consultants prodded, sketched, challenged, and revised. Finally, we all sat back, exhausted, observing weeks of collective work and ready for the endeavor to be finished.

Sales Lead? Check. Strategist? Check. Account Manager? Check. Specialists? Check…

Then… It dawned on me.

“I hate to bring this up… But I think something is missing.” I said. Glances darted frustratingly around the table in disbelief that this might not be over.

“What about the person who actually owns the relationship? I’m not talking about the appointed salesperson, but the person who holds the actual trust and relationship with the client? There’s no swim lane here for that. It might not even be a personal assigned to the actual project team either.”

Flash forward to my own company, and the realities remain the same. There’s a transcendent role that organizations must be intentional about, and recognize, or risk dire consequences by ignoring. The Rx is a phantom variable, and yet this phantom is unquestionably the most valuable on the team. Why? Because the Rx holds all the real trust. They’re the last stop on the trust train when it gets down to brass tacks.

All positional assignments aside, the Rx is the one who stays up late and wakes up early thinking about the client when they’re not required or paid to. The Rx gets the off-hours texts and calls from the client when something is very right, or very wrong, even when it’s not protocol. The Rx sends the personal ‘Thank You’ cards when nobody is looking, and is on a first or even nick-name basis with the client. The Rx gets the Christmas cards and gifts. The Rx is on the personal group email list for matters totally unrelated to work. The Rx is the one who is deeply and personally—not just professionally—invested in the well-being of a client who has bet their precious time, money, and reputation on them. I have developed Rx where I no longer consider the relationship in the professional sphere, and have attended weddings and even funerals as a result. At its very purest, Rx becomes deep, lasting, unseverable friendship.

In any service industry, humans don’t buy from brands—they buy the Rx within the brand. It’s human connection and interaction that’s being purchased. When I take a stage I stand for Carnegie, and when I walk off of it I’m given the unique opportunity to become an Rx, or not.

It takes a rare and talented team member to earn the stripes to claim this hallowed position. This is because the role isn’t transactional, it’s an emotional investment. It’s not listed on the job description and therefore this role isn’t a box that can be checked. It’s entirely above and beyond. What’s more, the Rx can be occupied by anybody in the company—from the top of the org chart to the bottom. I’ve witnessed a mid-level Account Manager earn Rx for a multi-million dollar account. In that instance, compare me — a founder and partner — to the mid-level Account Manager, and I pale in comparison in the client’s eyes. Rx simply doesn’t correlate with years of experience and is no respecter of degrees, tenure, or salary.

The client imprints on the Rx when they find a thought leader who they trust above everybody else to deliver. No offense to the team that sold the project, or the team that will produce the work, but if the ship sinks it will be the Rx left on it when all other life rafts have floated away. It will be the Rx that gets on a plane or a Zoom to have the difficult conversations and seek redemption. It will be the Rx that does not bail, even if it means they’re standing alone.

Just because you sold it, doesn’t mean you’re the Rx. You and I both know the hunter types who love killing and eating, but have no interest in anything beyond. And that’s okay—businesses require this vital role, too. But let’s not confuse a salesperson with automatic Rx.

When it comes to sustained, strategic growth, you had better identify your Rx — or Rxs — for every piece of business you have. Time and again I’ve witnessed accounts flounder and fizzle, and almost without fail it’s correlated to the fact that nobody ever earned the Rx. Put frankly, nobody emotionally invested enough to claim it; or sometimes, despite all the best efforts, an Rx just never materialized. Meaning, between the client team and the account team there was just never that spark in the ether. No imprint was ever formed. It’s okay to admit it, too. This doesn’t mean the account needs to end because of the absence of Rx, but be aware that the security and resilience of your account is far more compromised by comparison.

After all, humans require meaningful relationship, not just results.

Shareholders, your company lives and dies by the presence of this powerful force. I encourage to look over your roster and identify who seems to have that intuitive knack to hold this torch besides you. You likely started and built your company because you can build Rx instinctively; but if you intend to grow, you must replicate this ability.

So, do you want to be the most valuable person in the company? Work like an Rx. It’s a mindset, not a checklist. And if you earn it, you are indispensable.