During my NFL career, I received many requests to go to lunch or coffee—as if I didn’t have practice, or a job, or a life. In retirement I’ve noticed there are varying levels of meeting people, some more casual and some more serious. Meeting for a happy hour is pretty casual. Meeting for dinner or lunch gives you quality conversation time. There’s meeting for the shared experience of an event or presentation. And, my favorite, a coffee meeting.
Coffee meetings are a great way to meet someone without having an agenda. For a first meeting, I prefer to get to the point, especially if they are asking for a favor or to look at their project/idea. After deciding on coffee, the next question is where.
Where you meet says something about you, your meeting, and the other person.
The most successful business people I know do coffee on their corner. If you have something of value to offer, like advice or expertise, or you are doing a favor, ask for coffee on your corner. This strategy offers five main benefits.
1. SAVE YOURSELF TRANSIT TIME
On a practical level, coffee on your corner saves you time in transit. Who needs to drive somewhere and add to the time expense of the meeting when the idea or person might not work out in the long run? To save time, I often have meetings right in the deli in the office building of my radio station. If you want to meet me and talk about something, six times out of 10 I’m meeting you downstairs. It’s faster than walking to my car. I don’t have to leave early and worry about traffic and driving back.
So if you’re asking for a meeting with someone from whom you will ask advice, interview or request to look at your proposal, suggest meeting in their neighborhood.
2. ADD A “SURPRISE” ATTENDEE
Having coffee on your corner is a great way to enable yourself to add somebody to the meeting without asking permission. I often hear, “Hey, I’ve got a great business idea. Can I come talk with you about it over lunch?” I say, “Well, how about we have coffee at this deli in my office building, before my show?” Because I knew we were going to talk about a business idea, when that person showed up I had my accountant there with me, ready to vet the idea.
When you are in your part of town, you can add necessary people to your meeting. If the other person does have a good business idea, then you’ve cut down on a few back-and-forth first steps.
Often a good coffee ends with the question, “What are the next steps?” My accountant asked some good questions that they answered to my happiness and so okay, great. What are some next steps? It gives you additional resources and additional buffers to create and identify if the time, if the topic or if the proposal is right for you.
3. INDUCE RESPECT
When somebody comes to meet you on your corner for coffee, they’re showing you respect. Having coffee on your corner in fact induces respect, especially if the other person is asking for something. It puts you in a position of influence. So especially when you are the one being chased, ask for a local place.
Whether you go to them for your second meeting or meet in a neutral place between you, who knows? But anybody who drives to see you for an idea or a business plan or just to have coffee and connect, that’s a sign of respect. They respect you, your opinion, your expertise. And that’s a good thing. Your time is valuable.
4. TEST THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MEETING
I’ve been pitched a lot of garbage ideas over the years, and a surprising number of people who want me to invest a lot of money in their schemes can’t be bothered to drive across town. Hmm.
Asking the other person to come to your corner gives you insight into how important the topic under discussion or the purpose of your meeting is for the other person. If it’s important, they will find the time and come to you. Asking them to meet you proves to be a good test.
I learned this when I wanted to meet with a radio executive here in Denver. I suggested a neutral location, but they asked if I could come to a coffee shop across the street from their workplace. Absolutely I could! It was an important meeting to me and I was grateful for their time. I showed that by being the one who drove to them.
5. TEST THEIR FLEXIBILITY AND MOTIVATION
Having coffee on your corner not only gives you a clear window to discuss and assess the topic, but you also get a good glimpse into the person as well. If you are putting your money into a project and that person is going to be the face of their business, how do they treat people? If they are not even willing to come meet you early on, how are they going to behave around the prospective clients they are seeking?
If someone is unwilling to be flexible and drive to your area to save you a bit of time, what will it be like to do business with them? How is it going to be when you ask for that quarterly report on time? How’s it going to be when you ask for an email update after you have given them your money? Meeting for coffee on your corner gives you a good way to test their character and gain insight on how they will behave down the road.
In business and life, flexibility is a great attribute. Frankly, I don’t like doing business with people who lack this trait. If I’m doing you a favor by sharing my valuable time with you, and if you are unwilling to meet me in my neck of the woods on my time, I’ve got some questions about who you are and how doing business with you is going to look going forward.
Go ahead and ask for coffee on your corner. Create a great first step.