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Business strategy

Why you should never agree to coffee with a stranger until they’ve told you what they hope to get out of it

- December 9, 2021 2 MIN READ
Game of Thrones/HBO
It’s probably not the One True Rule Of Success but it’s got to be in the Top 10: never agree to have a chat with someone you don’t know until they’ve told you what they hope to get out of it.

Earlier in my career, it was me doing all the network heavy-lifting, asking other more experienced people if I could buy them a coffee and bounce a few ideas off them.

Then, there was a tipping point: I got a new role with “Director” in the title and for the first time, people started calling/emailing me to ask if they could buy me a coffee and have a chat.

Now, it happens two or three times a day, and I’m not saying that because I have a big ego (although I do) I’m saying it because at some point, your ability to ‘just’ meet someone for a chat is limited by the amount of time in a day, and you still have to get shit done. As my great friend and mentor Tony Faure says, “I can’t pay my kid’s school fees with coffees”.

I’m a big fan of the random synchronicity in the universe that produces unexpectedly useful outcomes from a casual chat; outcomes that were usually not on the agenda going into the chat.

But if you don’t know the person and you don’t know why they want to catch up for a chat over a coffee, you’re taking a risk that random synchronicity is the only upside you’ll get from that time. And it doesn’t strike frequently enough.

I’ve tried, but very few people are prepared to pay me to have a coffee with them. But I have an alternative solution: you go to your coffee shop, I go to mine, and we connect on a video call.

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t to encourage you to call me.

But when you call/text/email/message me to ask if we can catch up for a quick chat and a coffee, please tell me what you’re hoping you’ll get out of it. If you’ll be wasting your time/money, I can tell you that beforehand, which saves us both an hour and $10 on coffees.

And if you’re thinking about reaching out to somebody for advice, be prepared to be specific about what you’re hoping to gain from the conversation — it should at least ensure you’re talking to someone who thinks they can help.