When I walked into Dallas’s famous Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse, all I wanted to do was to enjoy my New York Strip steak, relax and quietly review my notes for the following day’s speech. Little did I know that a valuable business lesson awaited me at the table.
The only other customer in the bar was a guy sitting in the corner pounding away on his laptop. He didn’t look up when I walked in. The bartender on the other hand noticed my nametag when I arrived and yelled, ‘Hey Scott! Grab a stool and have a drink!’
I walked over as he flung a coaster down and said, ‘What’ll you have?’
‘Actually,’ I said, looking at that man in corner, ‘I have some work to do. Is it cool if I grab one of those corner tables over there?’
‘Sure, sit wherever you want,’ he said.
I sat down at the table caddy-corner from Mr. Laptop. He had one of the new Apple G5’s. Nice computer, I thought. Briefly peering over at his screen, I saw that he was working online.
‘Excuse me, but do you get high speed access in this bar?’ I asked.
‘Yeah! I’m set up with a wireless system. And it’s nice because I’d rather work here than in my hotel room.’
‘Oh yeah, I know the feeling,’ I replied. ‘That’s why I came here too.’
Pointing down at my nametag, he asked what convention I was attending. I smiled and told him, ‘Actually I always wear a nametag. It makes people friendlier and more approachable.’ He chuckled, as most people often do when I give them my standard answer to this frequently asked question.
‘Well Scott, it certainly worked on me! My name is Joachin. It’s nice to meet you.’
Joachin was a tech consultant from Orange County. He also flew in for the day to give a speech to one of his clients. Not surprisingly, we clicked instantly! And for the next hour, Joachin and I had one of those rare stranger conversations that covered just about every topic you could imagine. It was like we were old friends! And both of us seemed to have forgotten all about the work we’d each brought to the restaurant.
God I love it when that happens, I thought.
The more we got to know each other, the more it felt like our conversation could have lasted for hours. But it was getting late, and we both had big days ahead of us. So, after exchanging business cards and agreeing to drop each other a line sometime, Joachin left and returned to his hotel.
Wow! I’m so glad I talked to that guy! I said as I grabbed the notes for my speech. And as I took another bite of my steak, I also thought to myself, now wait a sec – something just happened here…
Avoid the Easy Seat
One of the principles of communication I often discuss in my workshops and books is called ‘Sitting With The Right Company.’ This idea reminds us that every new encounter represents a choice. For instance, we can walk into a meeting, a party or even a restaurant and immediately seek out the Easy Seat. That seat could mean sitting all by ourselves or perhaps with a group of people we already know.
Because it’s comfortable. That’s why it’s called the Easy Seat!
But sometimes, you need to temporarily sacrifice your comfort for the sake of your business and sit with someone new. In my experience, Sitting with the Right Company has several advantages:
Opportunity: at networking functions, unapproachable employees from the same company – who work together 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year – will always sit together. Meanwhile, other people in the room are expanding their respective networks by meeting new people. (And they wonder why business is slow!)
Education: Emerson once said, “Every man I meet is my superior in some way – in that, I shall learn from him.” If you seek to expand your business; you’ve got to expand your references. Think back to every conference you’ve ever attended: all the best learning probably came from casual conversations with new people!
Practice: the best way to become a more effective networker is to practice. Even the most introverted and shy of people can become brilliant at developing and maintaining mutually valuable relationships with a few reps! Consider stepping to someone new every week, just for the practice.
Because you just never know. You never know whom you will meet, what you will learn or how it will reciprocate. Unfortunately, too many people are held captive by this comfort. And it is those people who are missing out on opportunities to enhance the net worth of their social capital. Sure, it’s easier to talk to people we already know. But there’s also something to be said for digging your well before you’re thirsty.
Ok, back to Joachin…
After I paid my check and hopped back into the cab, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The cab driver probably thought I was drunk! But for some reason, the conversation I had with Joachin gave me more energy than the seven dinner rolls I’d just eaten!
And MAN that was beautiful.
Now, will we become life long friends? I doubt it. Business associates? Certainly, that’s a possibility. But…will we either of us regret spending our meal talking and connecting with an exciting new person instead of sitting alone in a corner burying our noses in work?
No way. And in the end…
I was SO glad I didn’t sit at the bar.
I was SO glad I didn’t work on my speech.
And I was SO glad I DID sit with the right company.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Have you ever initiated a chance encounter that changed everything?