How Relationship Equity Establishes Your Agency as a Category of One

By Jason Swenk on November 21, 2021

Do you know how relationship equity could help you grow your business and establish yourself as a category of one? Michael Stamatinos has always thought of himself as a connector. His love for building bridges and connections led him to the business development, marketing, and sales world. He founded Omorfi, an agency that empowers individuals to take a leadership role in their community and he focused on his passion for the healthcare sector, the role of leadership in communities, and helping people make connections. In this episode, he sat down with Jason to talk about how relationship equity became the core of all his interactions with the people in his life, how agency owners could use this concept to improve their relationships with clients and peers, and how being passionate about your business can really help you establish yourself as a category of one.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Relationship equity. Michael considers himself to be a connector. He loves creating connections between people and really believes in the concept of relationship equity. To him, relationships are like a bank account, you have to make sure to make a deposit and you have enough money before making a withdrawal or a purchase. “There are folks that are very quick to make massive withdrawals and they haven’t substantiated,” he explains. People will sometimes try to get something from a person without first establishing a true connection with them and building trust. How can you do that? By taking that relationship and multiplying it by time and by value. That is what truly builds relationship equity.
  2. How can agency owners use it? Relationship equity is all about connections and being bridge builders. Agency owners can really benefit from this approach when they focus on really understanding who it is that you’re trying to serve and know what it is that’s going on in their environment and in their world. Understand it so well that they think, this person really gets me and my business. But this is something that you can also take to your relationship with peers. “It’s amazing what doors can be opened when you try to approach the world from a place of abundance,” Michael assures.
  3. Be in a category of one. Having that connection and understanding of your client’s business and needs will happen especially when you find a niche you’re really passionate about. When there’s a connection that allows you the opportunity to start building and cultivating that relationship and building that bridge, this is the start of establishing yourself as a category of one in your industry. This way, you can empathize with and what they’re going through and ask how can I help? Who can I connect you to?

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Investing in Relationship Equity and Establishing Yourself as a Category of One

Jason: [00:00:00] What’s up, agency owners? Excited to have another amazing episode. We’re going to talk about relationship equity, and you’re going to want to really hear what we’re going to talk about and I got an amazing guest. So let’s go ahead and get into the show.

Hey, Michael. Welcome to the show.

Michael: [00:00:22] Hey, it’s good to be here.

Jason: [00:00:23] Yeah. So tell us who you are and what do you do?

Michael: [00:00:27] Uh, so Michael Stamatinos. Managing partner of Omorfi and we work with clients that are focused on growth. We work on strategic growth initiatives with some execution services.

So it really boils down to one word: access, access to the right people, access to the right strategic partners, and in some cases, access to the right growth capital. So we really view ourselves as bridge builders and connectors at heart. I am a connector and that’s really what we’re focused on.

So come from a pretty humble background. Parents are both immigrants, so grew up working in restaurants, being Greek, and just love working with people to the point where I wanted to be a clinical psychologist. And after my training, I realized that I didn’t want to be in living receptacle to people’s stuff. I still wanted to help people.

So gravitate it into the world of business development, marketing, and sales, and been there ever since.

Jason: [00:01:18] So I’m dying to ask you and you. And you probably get asked this a lot just based on how you did the intro about your family being Greek and in the restaurant business. Is your family like the Big Fat Greek Wedding?

Michael: [00:01:29] 100% Yes.

Jason: [00:01:33] How many cousins do you have?

Michael: [00:01:35] We have several cousins named Nick and Peter and Costa, and it’s very family-oriented. And my dad is quite a character, you know. When he talks to people, he’s very animated, loves to tell stories. My mom’s a little bit more of sort of the, just a homemaker, very peaceful, very calm. So sort of the ying and yang there. But my dad was a really hard worker and just grinded for a long time and stayed consistent.

I think if there’s anything that I’ve taken from him, it’s that. Staying consistent and having discipline.

Jason: [00:02:07] Awesome. Well, let’s talk about relationship equity. How do you view this?

Michael: [00:02:13] So I have an interesting story of how that kind of came about. So as I mentioned earlier, yeah, I’m a connector. I’ve always been a connector my whole entire life.

I get a lot of joy out of putting people together, regardless of whether something’s in it for me or not. And I was in a meeting one day with a client… And I don’t know if you’ve ever had, if this has ever happened to you, but I got a stream of thoughts that were so clear that I had to excuse myself from the meeting.

And I call it, I got a memo from that office, if you know what I’m saying. And that hadn’t happened to me up until that point in my life. So I left that meeting. I always carry a little notebook with me. So I jotted down three sort of overlapping circles with a circle in the middle that intersects all the other circles.

And I called it relationship equity, and really relationships are very similar to a bank account. When you initially start a bank account, you deposit some money. Well, if you want to go out and purchase something after you’ve started your bank account, you would draw some money. The reality is that if you continue to withdraw and you want to make a big purchase and you don’t have enough money in there deposited, it’s going to say insufficient funds.

And that’s really how I’m seeing the world now is that there are folks that are very quick to make massive withdrawals and they haven’t substantiated. They’ll do withdrawals by putting in deposits into that account. And sort of the three circles within relationship equity, that makeup relationship equity rather is trust. How do you build trust with people?

Well, you have to have some level of authenticity and I’m not here trying to be someone that I’m not. I’m a real person, normal person. And there has to be some sort of a connection. In our case, it was through, you know, one of your members, Pete, Pete Cunningham. And that’s how we really kind of transferred that relationship equity.

And so there’s that trust that. And then how do you build that relationship? Well, you take that trust and you multiply it over time. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be long stretches of time. It could be short, such as it’s on there’s some folks that have gotten really close to in short amount of time.

And then how do you build equity within that relationship? Well, you take that relationship and you multiply it by value. And the way that I define value for me is helping someone for the sake of helping them not having a hidden agenda. And when you do all those things, you build relationship equity. So when people ask me, what game am I in?

I’m in the game of building relationship equity all the time. Whether it be with my wife, with my kids, with my friends and family and with clients and prospects. That’s what I’m doing. And that’s look, that’s what got me here today. I didn’t reach out to you and ask you to be on your show. It was through a series of activities of trying to add value and trying to be helpful and building relationship equity, which inevitably was transferred to this particular moment here.

So this is something that I’m going to be doing until I’m not here anymore, regardless.

Jason: [00:05:10] Yeah. I love the term and I’ve always told people, you know, especially cause they’re like, hey, let me, uh, you got the audience I want. I’ll give you this amount of money. I’m like, no, it just doesn’t work that way.

I’m like, you got to make deposits before you’re withdrawing. I mean, a great example… It’s always been, since I’ve been a kid, my grandfather worked on the long island railroad and I’ve always wanted to ride in front of the steam engine. And I met this one guy, Greg, that a mutual friend introduced us because he usually takes off a lot of time. We go play.

And so we started kind of a couple of weeks ago, epic Fridays. So we just go out, climb mountains, do some really cool stuff. And I was telling him, you know, we were talking about like bucket list items and stuff like that. And I was like, man, you know, I’ve always wanted a ride in a steam engine.

He’s like, I know the owner of the Durango Silverton Railroad. Let me call them up for you. He surprised me. And so in the next couple of days, I’m going to get to ride, hit the whistle and everything. So just, just from relationships, like I didn’t ask for that. So…

Michael: [00:06:17] It’s amazing. It’s amazing what doors can be opened when you try to approach the world from a place of abundance and not to sound all woo or anything.

But when you really try to add value and try to really help people for the sake of helping people, not only are you advancing society at large, but I dunno, it just, there’s more opportunities that have come across my desk that I could ever take advantage of. It’s just trying to be, be that way. So I think I’m going to keep doing that.

Jason: [00:06:41] Yeah. I mean, there’s so many examples. I, you know, I think of, you know, in our mastermind, you know, some members like Dunkin or Ian or Jeremy. They provide so much value to the membership, but they get so much business back and that’s not their whole intent. Like they don’t go in it saying like you were saying, well, what can I get from this?

It’s like, I’m going to give, but then whenever they need anything, like people are like, I’ll give you the shirt off my back. What do you need? And they’re just people that recognize that you really start scaling… You know, I was very minded, many years of my career, like, oh, you’re in this business, I’m going to take you down.

And then I’m like, no, no, no, you can build relationships and work with people. And even if you never get anything back from it, you feel good by doing it.

Michael: [00:07:30] Yeah. The currency that I play with is relationship equity. And I get, as I mentioned earlier, like I view myself as a bridge builder. And what better way to live life than to continue to build bridges, show people how to build bridges. In other instances, you’re doing the bridge building for them.

But then you’re also building tools to show people how to build bridges. I mean, I didn’t go to a fancy school. I don’t have any of these fancy degree. I didn’t go in and I didn’t do any of that stuff. And somehow I pinch myself sometimes when I find myself in some of these meetings with people, quite frankly, that sometimes I’m like, wow, how did I get here? Oh my gosh. And I did.

And it has a lot to do with knowing how to get access to just scale. And it’s all about building relationship equity.

Jason: [00:08:18] Yeah. So the agency owners listening in, is there any steps or there’s no trickery here, but if they’re thinking, well, man, I would like to build more relationships and I’m thinking back, you know, a couple of years ago for me, I was crappy at building relationships.

Like it’s very hard to get in with me. Once you’re in, you’re in, you know, I was always closed minded and that kind of stuff. So how can agency owners benefit from this?

Michael: [00:08:47] The way that agency owners can benefit from it is as follows is, understand who it is that you’re trying to serve and know what it is that’s going on in their environment and in their world and know it’s so well to the point where they’re like, wow, this person really understands me.

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That’s how you connect with people. You having been a former agency owner and knowing the growing pains, the ins and outs you’d been there before. And when you’re trying to serve a specific niche or market and you understand problems that are very… And I’m not talking about just surface level deep, I’m talking about going four or 5, 6, 7 levels down.

That’s when there’s a connection that allows you the opportunity to start building and cultivating that relationship and building that bridge. So it starts there. And then the other thing that you really are trying to do is you really are going to have to position yourself as being, you know, that category of one.

That truly understands that market. I mean, you have quite a niche and I’m assuming it wasn’t, it was, it didn’t happen by chance. This was done by design. And it had a lot to do with how you position yourself and how you understood the pain points that agency owners were going through.

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Yeah, I always tell everybody I’m like, you have to know your audience you’re going after and understand what they’re feeling. Not their problem, but yes, you have to understand their problem, but how does that problem actually make them feel? And then empathize with them. You know, there’s many people that do what I do that has no empathy and they just, they just kind of go shouting down from their fake mountain going, hey, I can help you, you know, look at what all the shit I’ve done.

Versus like, I’ve been what you’re going through. I totally get it. How can I help? Who can I connect you to? You know, one of the things I always tell people after I, I meet with them, like, is there any back connect you with? Because I do believe, like you were saying, you’re a connector, you know, I’ve seen that, like the people that go, hey, you need to meet this person.

And then whenever they’re like, man, that relationship was amazing. Thanks so much, Jason. You know, and then just keep building on that. So I totally agree with all this. It’s so easy. It’s not like rocket science. I think you have to be aware in order to do it and kind of almost, you’re almost kind of changing yourself a little bit because I think early on, I think we’re all takers versus givers and when you give yeah, you get more.

Michael: [00:12:10] And there’s a great book called The Go-Giver and it’s, I’m looking at something that I’ve described to as a kid, that there’s something that when you shift from everyone defines success differently, by the way. For me, it’s about being able to have the time and money to do what it is that I want to do and do it with the people that I want to do with and having great relationships with those people.

I mean, at the end of the day, I’m not a slave to money. Don’t get me wrong. It’s, it’s an important aspect of things that it’s not the end all be all. And when you really place your identity outside of that, you start to make this shift from being successful to then being significant. So the shift from being successful to significant is it’s a long journey and it takes a lot of work.

And I can’t say that it was a smooth ride for me, and it’s not, I’m not done. I’m not done by any stretch, just so have a lot of growing to do. And the best is yet to come.

Jason: [00:13:03] Yeah. And I think when you make that shift to significance, I remember when I sold the first agency, I was depressed and it was because I didn’t have that significance.

And then when I was able to create the community that we’ve created and really connect all these amazing agency owners together. You know, then I was like, oh man, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Versus before I felt like I was on the top of the world by myself. And that sucked a lot of people look at it from the outside and they’re like, oh, that’s awesome.

I’m like, no, man. Like I enjoyed the journey. I enjoyed the climb. And now I feel like when you’re connecting all these other people, you can be on their journey as well. And that’s really pretty cool.

Michael: [00:13:46] It’s like, you know, like, a Sherpa.

Jason: [00:13:49] Yeah, exactly. But I just, I can’t climb as much. I can’t climb as fast as, as those guys. That’s amazing. Whenever you watch any of those Sherpas on Everest, I’m like, how are they doing this? And why would they want to do it?

Michael: [00:14:06] It’s crazy to see that happen. But I think it’s metaphoric too. The hardest clients usually have the best views does. But sometimes those climbs might not necessarily be successful. I mean, I have to tell you that, you know, part of my growth story , and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say this, came through a failed startup.

I had placed everything into this, everything, you know, some people spend money to go do their MBA. I dropped every single thing that I had saved into this thing. And it didn’t go well. And my identity was wrapped up into that. So having visions of grandeur, you know, making it and had, I knew just kind of looking back now because you know, you get kind of depressed when you lose everything.

It’s, it’s not a fun place. You learn a lot about yourself.

Jason: [00:14:56] But it makes you appreciate everything so much more as you’re moving forward, because I was hiking the mountain yesterday and I was going through this thick brush and it just kept getting thicker and thicker. I couldn’t get through it. So I had to backtrack. I had to go back down. And then find another route up.

And that’s, that’s everything. We do everything in business, in life, everything it’s never a straight path. It’s always the zigzags and knowing when to turn back, I mean, I could have probably made it through, but I would have been bloodied and banged up.

I was like, kinda like walking. So, awesome. Well, this has all been amazing. Michael, is there anything I didn’t ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Michael: [00:15:42] I think just to, just around knowing and taking that niche that you feel like you can be the best in the world. I mean, I didn’t say this, but you know, we have a really big presence in the digital health space.

And it’s sort of done by design in that aspect. And we’ve really positioned ourselves and placed ourselves to being in a category of one and pick something that you believe that you can be in a category of one and name it, name it, and tame it and proclaim it is the reality is that there’s a lot of digital agencies that are out there and it’s hard to differentiate.

So do your damn best to be able to do that and pick your claim and work it and work it and work it and work it and stay consistent over time. Consistency over time wins. I’m telling you that there’s, you know, people may think that we’re pretty successful at what we do, but I got a lot of scars on my back to showcase that it’s been a long journey and we stayed consistent throughout the whole entire time.

Jason: [00:16:49] I love it. Yeah. You know, and you have to be passionate and whatever you pick don’t choose it based on money. Like we were talking in the pre-show, why you chose healthcare and why you started working with other industries, like in plastic that you were like, oh, that’s healthcare as well. Cause you’re passionate about it.

And the more passionate about it, the more you’re going to do, and it’s going to resonate with your audience that you’re going after. Versus just kind of getting a stupid course out there that says here’s the most profitable niches for agencies and pick one.

Michael: [00:17:20] Um, I care about two things that I’m very passionate about, you know, relationship equity kind of really factors into this notion of access.

And the way that I view access is around customers, partners, etcetera, but on a broader scale access around access to care, access to things like food. I mean, there’s 50 plus million Americans now that don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. That’s an access  Golproblem, access to, you know, so access is something I care very, very deeply about when I see people that can’t get access or maybe someone that wants to try to get into a job and necessarily can’t get in and, um, you know, that’s an access problem.

And then the second thing that I believe that things hinge on is leadership. And there are leaders right now that are coming into some very influential roles that they’re not necessarily tech savvy, they’re tech dependent. They grew up with an iPhone. They grew up with a smartphone. And they view innovation as, as a differentiator, the view innovation as a way to generate more revenue.

And when you’re working with a digital agency and aspect of what they do is innovation. And the way I define innovation is providing value to many. Then you can do that incrementally over time. So those things kind of combined, you know, really hinge on whether or not people are going to be accepting of adoption of some of these innovations that come through.

And that’s exciting to me because you interact with people that you just problems that they’re solving can inevitably make a pretty big radical shift and be part of that journey is an absolute privilege.

Jason: [00:19:00] Yeah, exactly. Awesome. What’s the website people go and check you out if they want to reach out to you?

Michael: [00:19:06] Well, I’m on LinkedIn, so people can check me out on LinkedIn, Michael Stamatinos, and they can go to our website, and they can hear from us there.

Jason: [00:19:15] Awesome. Okay, everyone, go check that out. Michael, thanks so much for coming on the show. And if you guys want to build relations that equity and be around them, amazing agency owners all over the world that are sharing what’s working. Having a lot of fun, passing a ton of business back and forth. I really never talked about that, but just really elevating each other along the way over the years.

I’d love for all of you to go check out This is our exclusive mastermind for agency owners that want to grow and scale faster and just be transparent and have a lot of fun.

So go to and until next time have a Swenk day.

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