Tom Buckley, the 209th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is a man who understands the value of relationships and playing the long game.

Each week, Tom sends a number of handwritten letters to strangers. Sometimes, he writes to congratulate people for service they’ve delivered or articles they’ve written; at other times, he requests meetings. Through his letters, Tom has had coffee with a former prime minister, met some very prominent business leaders and picked up clients.

Tom, who grew up in the regional city of Bathurst, discovered the value of relationships as a 15-year-old boy, when a mentor gave him a copy of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. Two years later, when Tom became a real estate agent, he had the bright idea to set up coffees with other members of the community. That allowed him to build a great network, learn from some very smart people … and, as a natural byproduct, pick up clients along the way.

Tom’s philosophy is to get to know other people without expecting anything in return. In other words, it’s the opposite of the ‘quick wins’ and ‘what can you do for me?’ mentality.

After leaving real estate, Tom eventually moved to Sydney to set up an energy connections business, which he sold, eight years later, to AGL. He then bought an IT services business, All IT, which he continues to own and lead.

Clearly, Tom has had a lot of success. Why? Largely because he understands the value of relationships and playing the long game.