By David Cummings, EO Atlanta member and CEO of Hannon Hill Corporation
Have you ever read the business book, “Never Eat Alone,” by Keith Ferrazzi? It helped me understand the value of relationship building in business. Regardless of your industry, establishing new relationships is critical, and this book focuses on the important steps it takes to create, maintain and leverage them. I’m not talking about mingling just for the sake of mingling, but rather truly getting to know other people and looking for ways to help them.
As entrepreneurs, we’re always so busy forging new relationships with partners and clients that we tend to forget one of the most priceless opportunities: peer-to-peer networking. There is a wealth of knowledge within the entrepreneurial community, and all it takes is a one-on-one meeting to realize that all of the business answers we seek could potentially come from our peers. I came to this realization some time ago, and have since made it a point to proactively involve myself in the lives of fellow entrepreneurs. How do I do this? It’s simple: I invite them to lunch.
Over the past few months, I have eaten lunch with an entrepreneur almost every week, and I have found it to be rewarding on both a personal and professional level. Before each meeting, I spend a few minutes coming up with specific questions to ask so that I can get the most out of the time we have together. I also try to think more generally about areas in which I’m seeking advice. Here are some questions I like to use:
• How did you start or get involved with your current company?
• What are your biggest challenges at the moment?
• Have you noticed any major trends in your industry?
• Are there any other people that you think I should meet?
By making it a point to have lunch with other like-minded individuals, entrepreneurs can find insightful business solutions. For example, during one particular lunch, I was lamenting about my sales challenges and my inability to create an effective sales force. The entrepreneur across the table from me discussed how he conquered this problem in his business.
I immediately applied his lessons learned and changed my management approach, which led to significant revenue growth. The experiential advice I received was invaluable, and all it took was a few minutes over lunch. When it comes down to it, entrepreneurs love talking to other entrepreneurs, and by tapping into these great opportunities, I can walk away with new insights that can help me grow my business.