'Never be too busy to meet someone new'. That's the advice of the award winning Tweet Jukebox's CEO, Tim Fargo.
It's the advice I'd give my younger self too. In fact, I'd give it to anyone in business. Because recently, to my shame, I made some narrow minded and mistaken assumptions about the value of meetings that had found their way into my diary.
I'll be honest, my expectations were low and I was grumpy about losing precious time to attending them. If I'd had a sliding doors moment and not gone along to these meetings (there were three of them that particularly taught me this lesson), I would have missed out on conversations and introductions that have instead forged some brilliant ideas and opportunities, that we're now actually building into our business model. We'll be launching them later this year. In truth, they've helped re-shape something that I thought was pretty good already, into something that is now going to be even more special. And it will strengthen everything else that we do for our customers.
These weren't conversations with customers. (We have those a lot and I rarely query the value of them.) They weren't conversations with suppliers or distributors. They weren't with industry experts, rivals or think tanks. What made these meetings initially less obvious in their value but ultimately, so powerful and exciting, was the fact that these were businesses that it had never occurred to us to meet with, let alone to collaborate with. And I confess I thought we knew our business model and our strategy for the next few years pretty well. Indeed, it's a source of ambition and pride internally that we aim always to be genuinely innovative, open minded and challenging of the norm.
Had those meetings not happened, we would have missed out big time and so would our customers.
OK, so you can read tons of stuff on the internet and social media these days about how meetings are a waste of time and the only people who advocate them are those who don't want to do any work.
It's certainly true that badly run meetings, or meetings for the sake of meetings are in nobody's interests and it's not those types of (typically internal) meetings that I'm in favour of.
It's the meetings with people not quite on your radar, to whom you may be introduced by others or who you come across unexpectedly, that I'm talking about.
Because when it comes down to it, there are so many like minded people and businesses in existence or about to launch today. And if they're open to conversation with you, you should be open to conversation with them. If (unlike my previous self!), you go to each of these types of meeting with the attitude: 'how might we collaborate?' and 'how could our customers benefit if we did?', you open yourself up to a whole range of never before considered possibilities.
That's when it gets really exciting. And fun. And lucrative, for everyone involved. It also means that you may discover real points of brand differentiation that benefit you both and give you competitive edge.
It's true that not every meeting will spark these kinds of radical business opportunities and that not every idea will initially, if ever, seem feasible. But after the events of the last month or so, I'm more inclined than ever to adopt the Richard Branson attitude to these exploratory conversations, which is that when quite unexpectedly, 'someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say yes - and learn how to do it later.'
I'm a firm and relentless believer in the power of the question: 'what if..?' I'd rather look back on life and say, well, at least I never need to ponder, regretfully, 'if only...'.
But in the midst of everything else clamouring for attention in my crowded day, I'd unintentionally narrowed my vision, become focused on operational matters (that my team are more than capable of handling), and I'd stopped asking myself the very question that matters most.
To the list recommended by Dasheroo's John Hingley (in the great article attached below) of people with whom he recommends you should speak to grow your business, I would therefore add those who you might be ruling out because you're too busy and/or because they're not obvious targets.
So my advice to you is to be, and to stay, social. Be willing to explore and imagine, even where opportunities are not at first apparent. Go to each meeting with an open mind, ears wide open.
Don't miss the chance to shape, distinguish and grow your business with every conversation.
Trust me on this. It's time incredibly well invested.
Keep talking. Don't stop.
Are you out there talking to people in your business? You might find that is the place that makes the most sense for you to be spending your time. Here are four types of people you should be talking to in order for your business to grow.