I love coffee, but I also love my time – are you worth it?
Being a small business owner / entrepreneur can often mean lots of lonely days, long lonely days that go from 5 am to midnight whilst you produce what you need to keep yourself afloat… that can be another subject, this one is about the time we spend with the wrong people and how to find the right people to have coffee with.
My background is recruitment so I can interview people like a ninja and quickly uncover if there’s a “match” or not.
However, in entrepreneur land, particularly when you first start out, it’s easy to spend time with anyone and everyone as we are told that “our network is our net-worth”. Yeah, but there’s a great big hole in that. And I’ll tell you what it is.
If you are spending time having “the coffee meeting” with the wrong folks, then you are spending time that you cannot ever get back. Here’s the funny thing, when I first started out in business I was super-shy so when I was invited for a coffee, I would go (without doing any research on the person first) because usually I wouldn’t have “made the first move” so out of manners and being polite, I’d go. And then discover that I’d spend an hour of my time with someone who may or not be in this for the long run, or they’d have a business that I can’t help. Or, I’d suggest a follow up and they would disappear (not really in it for the long run, or just don’t know how relationship building works). If I can send the person in another direction that’s more helpful (for them, I’m all about making sure we are all hanging out in the right gang) and that will actually make sense for their business, I’ll do that.
The wrong coffee meeting is almost as redundant as the pile of business cards that you collect and never follow up on. Totally guilty of that one too…..now, just as the coffee meeting can be with the wrong folks, it can totally be with the right ones too. You just have to pick your mark. I’m blessed that some of my best clients have come from referrals off the back of the coffee meeting. When it works, it really works.
So how do you make the right decision to meet and not feel like you are coming across as a super-snob if you say no (that’s how I feel) or “too good” to give up your time for another person, especially when they are just starting out (we all love a newbie, the reason for that is it gives us significance because we can offer so much cool info and they look at us as if we are some kind of icon).
Just before I tell you how you do this, I’m going to tell you story of a well-known Melbourne entrepreneur who makes a massive effort to have the coffee meeting with as many people as possible. And they do this as they believe that they will have something to offer and vice versa. This particular “E” [that’s entrepreneur] has a thriving biz by the way, so this method works (doesn’t work for me), anyhoo, I meet “E” for a coffee. I’m given an overview of the biz that they run and how it all came to be, what the plans were to grow, how they could “potentially” engage me and could I send a quote.
Instead of sending the quote, I got scared. I went into overwhelm land and to thinking “how could I possibly ever be good enough to step up to their requirements” and mulled over the quote itself wondering if they would think that I was “worth” doing business with …. blah blah blah. Instead of sending a quote that day, it took me a while to get my shit together to do it (I was also assessing if I really wanted to work with them). Anyway, next thing I know there’s a message posted in a FB Group by them saying if you are asked for a quote in business, you should send one immediately and that they often ask people to quote to “help them” in their business and get them going.
What do you think my reaction to that was? Firstly, I’m no charity and certainly don’t need business from someone who feels that they are doing me a favour. Not my ideal client at all. But, the experience (and the sending a quote in a reasonable time frame made me look at my biz processes, so there’s always a win) and having to take note of how I was feeling, not taking something personally, was key to my progression. I’m very grateful for this as I learned a lot.
So how do you know who to have the coffee meeting with? A phone conversation is the ideal place to start. You always get a sense of whether or not you are going to get on with each other, which is the first hurdle.
Once you know that you can get along and have some common ground, ask them (or yourself) the following:
- Why would you like to have the meeting, what would you like to discuss? (there is always an intention, they may just be chasing you to sell something, or are you grasping at the hope they may want to buy from you)
- Who is their target market? (How can you leverage experience in different niche / industries to help each other, if your target market is not aligned you can send people their way, but may not need to have a coffee to do this, remember your time is valuable)
- Is their business something that you would be keen to refer to any of your clients? Would they refer you to their clients?
- Are you willing to offer them a sample of what you do without it becoming a contra-deal?
We often miss that first phone call and arrange coffees from meeting in groups online. If you do meet someone at a networking event, at least you have had the opportunity to have that initial discussion (remember, you must like each other to get on and want to help out).
It’s like going on a blind date or a version of Tinder for business if you don’t make that initial call. And really, in business the phone needs to be your best friend. I’ve seen lots of newbies in biz too afraid to pick up the phone (including me at times), the aforementioned “E” I met online and didn’t have a convo with on the phone. My recruiter background knows better, but I did it anyway. I am betting $1000 I wouldn’t have gone if I had made the call in the first place.
The coffee meeting IS good for business when you get it right. Please don’t waste your precious time on the wrong folks. Make a call and make a decision based on that. This is all part of your Personal Brand – who you hang out with tells a story of who you are.
You can thank me later.
Love S xx
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