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Opinion Editorials

Why “let’s do coffee” is an insulting request

(Business Editorial) You’ve been told by the gurus that you should be sending out mass “let’s do coffee” email requests to influencers, but I’m here to tell you that you’ve been misled.

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let's do coffee

“Let’s do coffee”

So you’ve been told by Jim that Sally (who is a stranger to you) is really connected and it would be beneficial to know her, so you reach out to Sally who points you in Jeff’s position, and you email Jeff casually suggesting that the two of you do coffee.

The request is seemingly innocuous, in fact, you’ve probably been to a dozen seminars where gurus tell you to grab coffee with as many people as possible. You’ve been told that it’s the golden ticket to advance your business.

Wrong.

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What the gurus advised you is true – getting coffee with an “influencer” can certainly advance your career. Your career. Yours. Your career. What a one-sided concept.

So offer to buy the coffee, right?

Let’s say you’re trying to be generous instead of selfish, so you offer to buy your new contact whatever coffee drink they want. That makes up for the lopsided relationship before it is ever even initiated, right?

Wrong.

My husband and I get these emails all the time, and we’re fortunate enough to host a monthly networking event that we can funnel people into instead of falling into the “let’s do coffee” trap on a daily basis, but most people aren’t that lucky.

Most people are faced with a choice, a choice you’re forcing them to make. Do they politely decline and crush your dreams of coffee talk, do they accept based on a pre-determined set of criteria, or do they blindly accept all invitations? And how many invitations do you think they get in a week? The more influential the person is, the more “let’s do coffee” emails they get and are forced to sound rude for rejecting people.

What’s the solution?

Consider this – each time you ask someone to coffee, they not only have to spend the time crafting a response, but they must take the time to look at their schedule and offer you times, then do the email dance of “where do we meet?” and usually, it’s in the middle out of politeness. Then, when coffee day arrives, you’re asking them to stop their work day, get in their car, drive to the mid-point, chat with you about your needs, drive back to work, and one to three hours later, you’re asking them to try to find their focus at work again.

What a huge investment. For what? The chance to be your stepping stone?

There is a solution. Instead of making influencers the bad guy and insulting their value by putting them into a win-lose proposition, invite them to a networking event. Better yet, find out via their social networks what events they already attend and reach out to see if they’d be willing to connect there.

Meeting influencers where they gather is not only a more considerate way to connect, but you may actually win favor by mentioning you aren’t looking to impose on their day, rather connect to see if there is any commonalities between you, given how many people have recommended that you two connect.

From now on, thou shalt not send out endless “let’s do coffee” invites. You make people feel like the bad guy because they have a legitimate job to tend to, and meeting them where they gather is a much more considerate (and potentially memorable) move.

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Ricci Neer

    June 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Agreed!

  2. Tinu

    June 24, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    My policy is, if there’s even the smallest chance that I will one day want a favor, I do at least two favors first. A favor can be as small as a retweet or as big as buying a round of drinks after a networking event.

    And I do it for the pleasure of it with people I like. That way if it turns out to yield nothing professionally, I file it under friendship.

    I also reject all requests from strangers and just let them know, it’s not personal, it’s my policy. I book appointments with clients a week in advance and I can’t afford to make them wait or reschedule the people who are paying me just because someone’s feelings might get hurt.

    If they think it’s rude that’s their problem. If you want my attention, provide value first.

  3. bobledrew

    June 24, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I’m happy to meet up with people for coffee (especially when they buy) for a couple of reasons.

    When I was fresh out of university, I was in a bit of a state of limbo. 21, ditched a plan to go to grad school, living in a community with a 25% unemployment rate. I literally walked into our local CBC radio station (like the BBC, but Canadian) and said “I’d like to learn how to do radio. Can someone help me?” Someone did, and that changed everything.

    Since then, I have felt a moral obligation to respond when someone reaches out. I like the idea that I could be a stepping stone for someone, or maybe more accurately, to link my hands and maybe give them a boost over a wall.

    I also believe that the law of averages suggests that when I do that enough, someone will do the same for me.

    That being said, there’s a line, and here’s when I draw that line — if I feel like I’m being “pumped” for knowledge or skills that I should be rightfully paid for, I find a way to say no thanks. At one point, someone essentially suggested to me that I could meet up with them every week and teach them about social media in exchange for them buying. That was a no. Also, while I am happy to pursue a long sales funnel, I am not going to have endless dithering coffees with people who just can’t pull the trigger. At some point, if there’s work to be done, you have to s**t or get off the pot.

    I think the insult in the request for a coffee is this: if someone asks me for a coffee, they’re imposing themselves on me. If you follow up that imposition with: being late, taking way longer than promised, a noshow, a blatant and unanticipated sales pitch… that’s insulting.

    On the other hand, if you contact me and ask for 30 minutes to talk about what’s happening in the city re: social media jobs, show up on time, take 30 minutes, and pay for my coffee, you have respected me and my time.

    • Dennis "DenVan" VanStaalduinen

      June 25, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Hey Bob, you are an awesome influencer and I totally agree with everything you said here, but let’s not grab coffee. Your time is too valuable. Beer is better.

  4. David Holmes

    June 24, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    I’ve never turned down a request like this and have always gotten something out of such meetings; from a renewed energy to different perspectives or valuable intelligence.

    When I started doing some new things and needed to request a few meetings of my own, I was astonished that the rest of the world doesn’t see things the way I do.

  5. jmacofearth

    June 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Great point. I found myself at a coffee ‘date’ a few weeks ago with a friend of a friend who was sure to have a business deal in the works and could use my expertise. I took the coffee date, but had bought my own beverage long before the gentleman arrived.

    He picked my brain for an hour. I explained how we could work together. And Poof he’s gone and my afternoon had a 2 hour bill-less hole in it.

    Okay, next time, I’m gonna MAKE him send me the “pitch” or idea first, IF I want to invest the time in a business prospect.

    Love the post. Thanks.

  6. Hank Miller

    June 25, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Amen. I don’t do coffee or lunch or dinner….or golf…..

    Best case, email me what you want to discuss I’ll review it and email you back. Failing that, YOU come to my office (bring coffee) and pitch me.

    There’s not a coffee around worth the lost hours “meeting” for this.

  7. It Will Never Be Right

    June 25, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Perhaps this is a trend below the 50-ish group of professionals. The offer to “do coffee,” much less that type of jargon, is not part of my profession. I’m a sole proprietor, a consultant in a specialized area of software expertise, and people are usually asking me to come to them. But not for coffee. Too time consuming, and simply not interested.

  8. LiveFromATX

    June 26, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    There’s obviously a line at which these requests may become too numerous and imposing, but I am against painting them all with the same brush as disrespectful and selfish across the board. Whatever happened to “influencers” using their influence for good, to give younger professionals a bit of advice or mentorship? Or someone established in a specific industry giving some pointers to someone trying to switch careers? I’ve received some of these requests, and I’ve always responded – yes or no – depending on the situation and how I was approached, and I’ve also sent out some of these requests, and have been greatly disappointed when they was simply ignored. Why not handle each one on a case by case basis? The attitude suggested by the author of this piece is reminiscent of Kelly Blazek’s now-infamous LinkedIn diss of an advice seeker, because she was too high and mighty to bother with little plebes.

  9. Scott Langmack

    June 28, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Yikes, the article approaches getting coffee in a way that strips humans of humanity. Instead, define coffee in three different contexts – someone you know, someone you can get a quality introduction to, and someone you don’t know. If you know them, the coffee request is fine. Humans are social animals, tens of thousands of years of community-based instincts is why successful people want to help others they know, and they are flattered when asked. The issue is if you don’t know someone, asking for time/coffee is intrusive. I coach people to have their mutual connection ask their friend to meet, so the favor is split between the asker and the coffee meeting requestor. People have a natural sense of their social capital with others, and wont agree to make the intro if there is not a perceived benefit for both parties in the meeting. Remember that senuir executives are primarily human brokers, they spend the vast majority of their time finding, training, placing, firing, and referring people. When you want to move your career ahead, meet with human brokers who know you or have a strong social connection to you. As far as “blind” requests for coffee, skip it – there is no social contract for the person to accept the meeting or help you if they do.

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Opinion Editorials

The measure of success is more than just salary

(EDITORIAL) Chicago-based hair stylist, Lindsey Olson, explains why passion and dedication is proven to be the most fruitful attributes for success.

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Six figure stigmas

For years, I’ve been interested in the societal stigma that you have to be a doctor or a lawyer in order to make a solid salary. But as time goes on, what I’ve learned is that it isn’t what you do that necessarily makes you money but what you put into it.

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We live in a different world today than we did even 20 years ago and we have more of an ability to think outside of the box when it comes to the search for success. Lindsey Olson, a Chicago-based hair stylist, is a living example of this.

Finding a passion and running with it

After developing an interest for hair early on in life, Olson began her career as a shampoo technician in a salon while still in high school. Immediately after graduation, she went into cosmetology school and continued bettering her craft.

Now, she has found success as a salon professional, as well as a Redken Exchange Artist and educator.

From there, it has become a matter of building onto the foundation of her success by trying new avenues and taking on new challenges.

Risk and reward

“I’ve always had the mindset that anything is possible,” says Olson. “It’s almost like taking risk. Once you start doing a little bit and see what happens, then you do a little bit more…the bigger the risk the bigger the reward. It really comes down to that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”

After her years working in a salon, Olson joined the Redken team in 2007.

With this, she has traveled internationally and has taught the ins and outs of hair coloring, cutting, and styling.

Being that the industry of style as a whole can be quite competitive, Olson has had to learn how to brand herself in a way that sets her apart from the competition. With this, she is very active on social media by sharing the work she has done with clients and models.

Branding against the competition

In addition, she also creates hair tutorials that she shares with her followers as a way to gain traction. “[What’s important is] making it known who I am as a person, as an educator, as a hair stylist, [sharing] my style and showing that to people,” Olson explains.

Despite the fact that her dentist tried to take the wind out of her sails in high school by asking what else she had lined up for herself besides cosmetology school, Olson has continued to take on bigger and better challenges. By doing shown, she has proven that a passion can be successful.

In Lindsey’s words

“Moral of the story, I think, is, don’t ever think that you can’t do something. The moments where you get to the place where you doubt yourself are almost some of the best,” states Olson. “If your life isn’t a little chaotic and challenging, you’re not living.”

#Redken

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Opinion Editorials

Why entrepreneurs need minimalism too

(EDITORIAL) You don’t have to ditch your couch and all but one cushion to be a minimalist. Try applying minimalist thinking to your job if you’re having trouble focusing.

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As a concept, minimalism is often accepted as the “getting rid of most of your stuff and sleeping on the floor” fad.

In reality, minimalism is much closer to living an organized life with a pleasant sprinkling of simplicity as garnish—and it may be the answer to your entrepreneurial woes.

I in no way profess to be an expert on this topic, nor do I claim to have “all of the answers” (despite what 16-year-old Jack may have thought).

I’m a firm believer that you should take 99 percent of peoples’ suggestions with a grain of salt, and that mentality holds true here as well.

However, if you’re struggling to focus on your goals and you consistently fall short of your own expectations, following some of these guidelines may give you the clarity of mind that you need to continue.

First, reduce visual clutter.

If you’re anything like the stereotypical entrepreneur, you keep a thousand tabs open on your computer and your PC’s desktop is an unholy amalgam of productivity apps, photoshop templates, and—for some reason—three different versions of iTunes.

Your literal desktop doesn’t fare much better: it’s cluttered with notes, coffee rings, Styrofoam coffee cups, coffee mugs (you drink a lot of coffee, okay?), writing utensils, electronic devices, and…

Stop. You’re giving yourself virtual and visual ADHD.

Cut down on the amount of crap you have to look at and organize your stuff according to its importance. The less time you have to spend looking for the right tab or for your favorite notepad, the more time you’ll spend actually using it.

And, y’know, maybe invest in a thermos.

Instead of splitting your focus, try accomplishing one task before tackling another one.

You may find that focusing on one job until it’s finished and then moving on to the next item on your list improves both your productivity throughout the day and the quality with which each task is accomplished.

Who says you can’t have quality and quantity?

In addition to focusing on one thing at a time, you should be investing your energy in the things that actually matter. Don’t let the inevitabilities of adult life (e.g., taxes, paperwork, an acute awareness of your own mortality, etc.) draw your attention away from the “life” part of that equation.

Instead of worrying about how you’re going to accomplish X, Y, and/or Z at work tomorrow while you’re cooking dinner, try prioritizing the task at hand.

If you allow the important things in your life to hold more value than the ultimately less important stuff, you’ll start to treat it as such.Click To Tweet

Rather than stressing about the Mt. Everest that is your paperwork pile for the following Monday, get your car’s oil changed so that you have one less thing to think about.

Minimalism doesn’t have to be about ditching your 83 lamps and the football-themed TV stand in your living room – it’s about figuring out the few truly important aspects of your daily existence and focusing on them with everything you’ve got.

As an entrepreneur, you have the privilege of getting to do just that.

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Opinion Editorials

Two myths about business that could land you in a lawsuit

(EDITORIAL) Two misconceptions in the business world can either make or break a small business.

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Business casual

When you’re an entrepreneur with a small staff, you may be in the habit of running your team casually.

While there’s nothing wrong with creating a casual environment for your team (most people function better in a relaxed environment), it’s wise to pay close attention to certain legal details to make sure you’re covered.

Labor laws still apply

It’s easy to misinterpret certain aspects of labor law since there is a lot of misinformation about what you can and cannot do inside of an employee-employer relationship. And since labor laws vary from state to state, it can be even more confusing.

As an entrepreneur, it might be strange to think of yourself as an employer. But when you’re the boss, there’s no way around it.

Here are two employment myths you might face as an entrepreneur along with the information you need to discern what’s actually true. Because these myths carry a lot of risk to your business, it’s important that you contact an attorney for advice.

1. Employees can waive their meal breaks without compensation

It’s a common assumption that any agreement in writing is an enforceable, legally binding contract, no matter what it contains. And for the most part, that’s true.

However, there are certain rights that cannot be signed away so easily.

For example, many states in the US have strict regulations around when and how employees can forfeit their unpaid meal breaks.

While meal breaks aren’t required at the Federal level, they are mandated at the state level and each state has different requirements that must be followed by employers. While some states allow employees to waive their meal breaks, on the other end of that the employer is usually required to compensate the employee.

For example, in California an employee can waive their 30-minute unpaid meal break only if they do so in writing and their scheduled shift is no more than 6 hours. In other words, when a shift is more than 6 hours, the meal break cannot be waived.

Additionally, when an employee waives their unpaid meal break, they must be paid for an on duty meal break and be compensated with an extra hour of pay for the day.

Vermont, on the other hand, provides no specific provisions for meal breaks and according to the Department of Labor, “Employees are to be given ’reasonable opportunities’ during work periods to eat and use toilet facilities in order to protect the health and hygiene of the employee.”

As you can see, some states have specific regulations while others have general rules that can be interpreted differently by each employer. It’s best not to make any assumptions and contact a labor law attorney to help you determine exactly what laws apply to you.

2. You own the copyright to all employee works

So you’ve hired both an employee and an independent contractor to design some graphics for your website. You might assume you automatically own the copyright to those graphics. After all, if you paid money, shouldn’t you own it?

While you may have paid a small fortune for your graphics, you may not be the legal copyright holder.

Employees vs. independent contractors

When your employee creates a work (like graphic design) as part of their job, it’s automatically considered a “work made for hire,” which means you own the copyright. An independent contractor, however, is different.

While any legitimate work made for hire will give you the copyright, just because you created a work for hire agreement with your independent contractor doesn’t mean the work actually falls under the category of a work made for hire.

According to the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 101) a work made for hire is defined as “a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas.”

This means that unless your graphic design work (or other work you paid for) meets these requirements, it’s not a work made for hire.

In order to obtain the copyright, you need to obtain a copyright transfer directly from the creator, even though you’ve already paid for the work.

Always play it safe

The boundaries of intellectual property rights can be confusing. You can protect your business by playing it safe and not making any assumptions before consulting an attorney to help you discern the specific laws in your state.

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