Thursday, October 30, 2008

There was lunch before Meet-up

In addition the group of I mentioned yesterday---three guys in similar businesses to mine---I have, for more than ten years gotten together for lunch with another group to meetup.

This group was originally assembled around a shared need: we had all recently become middle managers and were struggling with managing up and down in our organizations. All from affiliated industries the group is composed of a combination of clients and service providers. Similar in age we did not know each other well when we began to meet. Again, it was the regularity of those meetings---this time once per month--- that contributed to our success. Also the size of the group, there are six of us. The optimum size for a good discussion and large enough that if someone was a “no show” it still was viable. We quickly understood that if we met in the same place---in this case Delancey Street in San Francisco--- ( at the same time (11:45 before the lunch rush), within easy reach of public transportation and valet parking---it was easy to organize and none of us had a good reason to skip. The dates are scheduled at the end of lunch and one of us sends a casual email reminder the day before or day of. Over time we have became such creatures of habit we could order for each other if someone was running late. We have had over-the-top-big burger days and many where we split salads. I only mention this because: WE ALWAYS HAVE DESSERT. So there. It’s a decadent pleasure as well as a business meeting. Now you know all our secrets.

The value of this group to our careers cannot be measured. It has transcended three jobs for most of us. In many cases the actual referral to a job opening came from this lunch group. Certainly we discussed each and every opportunity comparing notes about who we knew or could introduce to smooth the way. As a service provider I received many opportunities I would not otherwise have known about. Amazing.

Over the last ten years this group has become so important to all of us: we share (in addition to the business stuff) trips, kids, dogs and dates. Again, amazing.

Try a lunch meetup!!!!!

P.S. Take a look at Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty by Harvey Mackay, DoubleDay 1997 about networking. Described as "The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need." It has tips that are relevant in any economy but particularly in the midst of a downturn…I saw it used for $3.89 today on Amazon (


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Before There Was Social Networking There Was Lunch

Was there social networking before Facebook and LinkedIn and MySpace and Plaxo? There was and we called it “Lunch.”

Business networking has been around since the beginning of time. The first time a woman exchanged a basket of berries for a necklace or chicken for help building a hut there was networking. Who had what you needed and what did you have to exchange? Who were the experts? How did you get to know them?

So in the 90’s (and before...but let’s not date ourselves TOO much!) there was lunch. Today I’m having a particular kind of lunch that I thought it appropriate to share. I thought everyone still did some lunching but didn’t realize until I was talking to Marcy Alboher ( when she interviewed me for the June issue of More Magazine ( that something I take for granted might be considered unusual for others.

Here’s the thing: for several years I’ve gotten together for lunch once every six weeks or so with three guys who most folks would call “my competitors.” I didn’t know them well when it began, was in fact surprised to be included. We started by talking industry chatter---who knows whom, best places to get stuff, etc---and now it’s a “can’t miss” for me. I’ve made several very significant changes in my business as a result of the information shared including: asking for a larger deposit than I had previously (which changed my cash flow for the better), adding new vendors I didn’t know and most recently a new, green business that we’ve started together called GQA ( . This group rocks for me!

I can’t recommend the concept enough---reach out to folks who have a similar business to yours and start to talk. Some guidelines:

Lunch is good. “Breaking bread” with people elicits a level of communication not found elsewhere. No alcohol keeps it on track so lunch is better (I think) than cocktails after work or dinner. It’s also more finite. Folks have places they need to be after.

Make it regular, schedule the next meeting at the end of the current one when everyone’s got their calendar. Be respectful. Don’t miss a meeting. Everyone is busy. Make this exchange a priority. Nothing ruins networking faster than unreliability. Be discreet. Some of the things you discuss don’t need to be repeated. Be honest and direct in your communication. Good communication involves trust. I think the reason a group of potential competitors can get together and share at this level has everything to do with trust. Have a loose format for the exchange: we routinely share business books or articles, vendors, current challenges. That said, over time the informal topics creep in and we’ve learned a lot about each others’ outside-of-business life. This is actually a good thing and maybe easier with a woman in the group (?) because familiarity breeds more trust.