Every entrepreneur should be lucky enough to have a friend like Rafi.
To know Rafi is to marvel at his energy and his aptitude for building social networks. To really know Rafi is to marvel at his kindness and generosity.
I first met Rafi back in our undergraduate days, but I would be lying if I said that we knew each other well. He was on my radar, and I was on his, but we were in our early 20s both trying to figure our lives out.
It's only within the last few years that I have been fortunate enough to join Rafi's inner circle, and I count my blessings at the good fortune to do so.
So what makes Rafi so special, you ask?
First of all, there is no one as skilled at networking as Rafi. While I myself am a serial networker, Rafi has a social rolodex of thousands of contacts, each of whom he manages somehow to keep tabs on and stay connected to. I have often teased him that if I did not know him in person, I would have assumed he was simply a well-built algorithm.
What sets him apart though is that he never uses this skill for personal gain. Rafi cares. He stays connected to everyone's successes, job changes, weddings, new arrivals, etc., and is usually the first to offer congratulations. He is also there in times of loss or tragedy, and similarly is the first one to offer words of comfort or support.
It would be easy to take Rafi for granted if you don't stop to realize how hard he works at staying that connected.
Beyond that network though is how he consciously uses his talents to make the world a better place.
Rafi's kindness is unparalleled. Not only does Rafi champion the success of others, but he is without fail the first to offer a helping hand.
If a friend launches a new business, Rafi is the first to promote it. If he knows that someone is looking for a new role or a career change, Rafi is the first to offer an introduction, and will do what he can to make a new opportunity happen. Rafi supports his friends, and regularly makes introductions, passes leads, and facilitates opportunities without expecting a single thing in return.
Amazingly, Rafi's close inner circle is a small, tight-knit group of close friends. Yet whether you spend time with him and his family regularly, connect with him regularly online, or just know him in passing at events, Rafi is here for you.
Entrepreneurs need champions. It's amazing when friends offer a kind word or a nod of support, or tell you that they will 'keep an ear out.' They usually mean it, and that kindness should not be undervalued.
The champions, though, go a step further. They'll actively make the first move to facilitate an important introduction without thinking. They'll pass your name along to someone that they know in need, and go the extra mile to tie their own reputation to yours. They'll check in, regularly, seeing what more they can do to help despite already going above and beyond.
Champions are your biggest supporters in business, and they're also your best cheerleaders.
Rafi Yablonsky is a champion for so many people. I'm grateful that he's one of mine, and I'm proud to be one of his.
If you have a Rafi in your circle, thank them for all their help, and do your best to return that level of kindness.
Try doing one better. Be like Rafi.