Monday, August 22, 2011

Too Many Coffee Meetings?

I read this BLOG post over the weekend and wondered if you might have a similar reaction to what I did. 

Check out the BLOG post and then come back here to see my take on it:

So first, let me just say that I think the author Mark Suster definitely makes some interesting points in his BLOG.  Depending on what your objectives might be (i.e. business development, seek funding for your start-up or look for a new career) his suggestion of 5 coffee meetings per week (250 per year) will certainly increase your visibility.  I have no doubt that you'll find at least a few positive outcomes that come from these meetings so that's a good thing.

But after that, that's where I start to have concerns.  For example...

Let's assume you are inviting all these people out to coffee.  Courtesy dictates you invited so you should probably buy their coffee to thank them for their time.  If you take the average cost of $ 2.44 for a Venti brewed coffee at your local Starbucks times two (you surely won't drink alone will you?) that coffee meet up just cost you $4.88.  That's $1,220/yr on just coffee!  And trust me, when you buy someone always wants something way fancier and more expensive than drip coffee so expect that cost to go way up!

Forget the coffee cost, what about the time cost?  I have no idea if you've ever calculated what your time is worth but you should absolutely figure that out.  Let's assume that you value your time at $20/hr. and each coffee meeting lasts about an hour.   If you did 250 hour long coffee meetings that would cost you an additional $ 5000 per year.  Couple that with your "coffee expense" and now you're looking at spending $6-7,000 per year.

Now I am probably coming off as a cheapskate and I am sure the counter to this argument is that investment in time and caffeine is a drop in the bucket if one connection "hits."  Maybe that big deal comes through thanks to that meeting.  Perhaps you increase that client's spend because you've spent an hour with them demonstrating you care about their business.  Maybe, just maybe, that door to the venture capital you've long sought after will finally materialize with a big check. All valid but how likely?

Separate from the time and investment concerns that I have about Mr. Suster's strategy, I have ones about the quality of the meetings.  Let's face it, one meeting per day sounds uber reasonable on the surface of "sure I could do that" world.  But for most of my clients it would be a stretch.  Heck a few in-person meetings per week is a long shot.  How would you have time to properly follow up on each one of those meetings?  Surely if the meetings happen like they should, something will come out of them which then requires your immediate follow-up and action.  More time, more cost which is great but hard to manage at the proposed level of activity.

I guess my biggest concern with Mr. Suster's strategy is that it follows the same unproductive methodology of traditional networking.  It emphasizes quantity versus quality and for me that just doesn't work.  Sure you can have your 5 coffee meetings per week but if you don't have the right 5 coffee meetings per week, what have you really accomplished?  Aside from a lighter pocket book and the hopes of something materializing from that one-time meeting. 

Here's the deal, that doesn't work. 

Relationship focused meetings take way more effort than a cup of coffee and an hour investment of time.  They take multiple sustained interactions and investments by you in time, effort, action and commitment. One time meetings in hopes that something comes out of isn't realistic and bottom line, you can't rush a relationship's growth.

To be fair, Suster doesn't go into the fact that it takes more than a one-time meeting to build a relationship and I assume he undoubtedly know this.  He just doesn't clarify it, at least not enough for my simple mind.

My counter to the 250 coffee meetings argument is to cut that number by half or even three quarters and focus on making those interactions more memorable, more valuable and more rewarding for all concerned.  Sure the target audience is smaller and creating connections and (hopefully) relationships will take more time and a lot more effort but if you're meeting with the right people, the pay-off is far more significant.

That's my take but I would be curious what yours is.  So leave me a comment, drop me an email or heck...let's meet for coffee and discuss (wink).

Ripple On!!!


Anonymous said...

Guess that's why he's a VC and your not.

Ann Marie said...

Yeah Steve puts most VCs to shame thank you very much. Snarky comment Anonymous!