There are two precious resources all entrepreneurs swear by: time and money. With less time, we earn less money. When you work for yourself as a solo-practitioner or solopreneur, time is even more precious because you don't have a staff to assist you. Every hour should be accounted for in your workweek.
About six years ago, a close friend started his own business. We used to work together, but he decided to depart to start his own company. Our friendship faded because he could never commit to getting together for a coffee, lunch, or beer, like he used to. I couldn't understand this, but I understood once I started my company, Futureforth.
When you earn a paycheck you have more free time to socialize. When you work for yourself, you must consider whether that time will amount to new clients, customers, or something to benefit your fledging business. Yes, obviously we all need to fit in social time, but you won't grow your business if you are spending all of your time socializing. You also must beware of complacency when business is booming, all businesses have ups and downs.
I now get a little frustrated when I join someone for a coffee meeting only to learn that it is a social call and not something work related. Don't get me wrong, I love to socialize, but when I am seeking new clients, I must focus my time on business development and not casual coffee chatter. Free time is an oxymoron to an entrepreneur.
I recently set up a coffee meeting with an acquaintance I admire. He spends much of his time traveling for his business. He was home from London, but about to depart to New York in just a few days. Before he was back from London, I had reached out to ask him if he would like to join me for a coffee. In the email, I included two important words: no agenda.
Had I not used the words "no agenda", he might have anticipated my meeting request would lead to new work, or some form of professional collaboration. He might have ended up feeling disappointed, or worse, annoyed. I wouldn't blame him.
Time is a precious resource. During his few days between traveling, he probably had work to do and family to spend time with. Using "no agenda" told him that this was indeed a casual coffee meeting invitation, nothing more.
I believe that when planning social calls with fellow entrepreneurs we should add "no agenda". This lets the recipient know that this is strictly a casual meeting. I am writing this now because the gentleman pointed out how much he had appreciated my use of "no agenda". He knew from those two words that our meeting would strictly be a social call. I wasn't selling anything or buying anything. This was just an opportunity to chat and catch up with someone I admire.
Rather than risk disappointing or annoying your network, be clear on why you wish to meet with them in the first place. Respect their time and they will respect you. If there is a business opportunity to discuss, let them know. If it is just a friendly, catch-up coffee meeting use "no agenda".
This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper. Photo from Flickr by Pascal Maramis.