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  • Tami McCandlish

Twenty-to-One Friendship Formula

When my husband, Charlie, and I began growing our fitness and nutrition business, our mentors taught us the ten-to-one formula, meaning, on average, if we talked to 10 people, one would become our customer.

My head tilted as I stood in front of the names I had written on my whiteboard, realizing that we needed to talk not to 10 people, but to 20 people before one person said yes.

At first, I felt like a failure.

What are we doing wrong?

Why are we such a turn-off?

Why can’t we get people to do business with us like those trainers do?

It didn’t help that I don’t like numbers. So I rationalized. Maybe it was because we talked to people, eyeball-to-eyeball and in-depth. That was the slower, harder way. Whatever the reason, I sucked it up and admitted that the numbers revealed the truth.

“Okay, who cares if our number is higher,” Charlie said. “It’s our number, and now we have a place to work from.”

So, we kept talking to 20 people before we heard one yes. We did it month after month, year after year until we experienced a breakthrough.

What was supposed to be our worst year (2020) became our best year. People began recognizing us as fitness leaders, the DM's sounded on Charlie’s phone, and our studio schedule filled. Our constant grind eased. We solved problems easier and stepped into our ideal roles. Things flowed.

At my whiteboard again, I praised God for His blessings, remembering how that simple formula of twenty-to-one gave us the footing to grow our business.

I look at friendship the same way. It’s a numbers game.

It’s not that I track my social interactions on a whiteboard. Maybe I should. Maybe it would keep me locked into reality so that I never start feeling down about connections that go nowhere. But I doubt it. Before I let myself get too low, I remember my twenty-to-one formula, and it’s usually enough to help me keep perspective and ask questions like:

  • Am I allowing myself to make new connections?

  • How many people am I around right now?

  • When was the last time I introduced myself to people at a gathering?

  • Texted, called, or messaged people?

  • Told someone, “I’d love to be friends,” and asked to get together?

My answers are usually no, not a lot, not in a long time. They remind me that it doesn’t make sense to feel down about a lack of friendships when I’ve spent consecutive weeks (or months) talking to my cats more than people.

Rather than beat myself up, I attack with another sales philosophy: action solves problems.

The more people I expose myself to, the more opportunities I have to find connections. I go to the party. I send just-thinking-of-you texts. I reach out to the person who’s on my mind. If my attempts don’t produce results, SO. WHAT? I have to start somewhere; these actions are my platform from which to jump.

If friendship is a numbers game, and I want to win, I have to put myself in the game, where I’m not only the player but the coach and the only one who decides when and if I come out.

I don’t know if it takes 20 or five handshakes, hellos, or do-you-want-to-be-my-friend approaches before I score a potential solid, long-term, deep, genuine friend. Whatever the formula is, I know it takes try after try, just like it did in business. And if I keep at it, it will—it does—become easier.

You don’t have to be in sales or track your interactions on a whiteboard to embrace this outlook. If you're like me, just know that it takes a lot. A lot of tries. A lot of time. And a lot of people. You don’t have to feel defeated over a few failed attempts.

Remember twenty-to-one. Action solves problems. And keep going.

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