A colleague posted an article on his Face Book page by an individual explaining why he didn’t want to have coffee with him. It sparked quite a few responses, not only on the Face Book post but also on the original article.
Lots of people were upset with the audacity of the author in refusing to accept coffee invitations from just anyone. There were the obligatory comments of “Givers Gain,” “you don’t know who they know,” and so forth and so on. What an ungenerous lot, they were!!!
As for me, I support him.
I think I am as helpful a spirit as there can be; after all, ‘To know me is to love me’ (just ask my Dad!!) – but there are other things to consider; the biggest one for me being to have a purpose for the things that we do.
Too often, we offer to have coffee (other beverages are available!) because we feel we should. Our referral group supports it. Books tell us to never eat (or drink wine) alone. Others have met with me and what goes around comes around; just a few of the reasons we say “yes”. But is that smart for your business?
Our time and resources are not unlimited so maybe we should have some guidelines to follow when considering these meetings. The author of the article related his rules and was verbally flayed for having them. Whereas I, as his business coach, would applaud him. He might be a bit transactional (what’s in it for me?) in his policies, but at least he has a purpose for setting these meetings and sticks to it.
Many of these coffee meetings arise from the need to get to know members of our referral groups. I’m good with that. If I intend to be a good member and contribute, I need to get to know the membership.
Other meetings are solicited by people you meet at networking events. Some of these are welcome while others may be less appealing. The latter can be handled in a number of ways. One is to suggest that the initial meeting be done by phone. This is less intrusive on your calendar and easily accommodated. Another is to invite them to a function such as your referral group, a business lunch or an after-hours event that will provide opportunity to talk more.
There is another reason that should be considered. While we are generally looking for mutual benefit when business networking, sometimes we may just want to be helpful. Certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s a commendable attitude. But just like a lawyer doing pro bono work, you need to determine how much you can afford to do.
While it is important to be generous, it is also important to have a purpose. Successful networking is purposeful networking. Be smart about the meetings you schedule.
Do you take every ‘coffee’ that is offered to you? Or do you have some guidelines in place? Or will you put some in place?
Now, I’m off to get a last coffee in before the end of the day (on my own!)