riding bikes together

Getting Creative at Getting Out of the Office

Having a comfortable office for business meetings is a great resource. It's very convenient to have a consistently available place to meet with potential clients, employees, or referral partners. However, it's also great to get away from the workplace at times.

Meeting someone away from the office can offer the benefit of a neutral territory, where people can lower their defenses and engage in more genuine conversation. Where you choose to meet can also give others a better understanding of yourself and your company culture.

When scheduling your next business meeting, consider some variants on these classic choices.

ice cream meetingEating Establishments

Everyone knows the standbys of a coffee or lunch meeting. (If you're particularly adventurous, you might go for an after hours cocktail.) But meeting over meals doesn't have to be limited to a cafe or sit-down restaurant. If you want to make a meeting memorable, start at a food truck, or grab an ice cream cone. Weather permitting, you can walk and talk as you enjoy your snack. Many people feel awkward holding face-to-face conversations with people they don't know well, particularly if they are eating in front of them.

Walking side-by-side helps avoid nerves over eye contact, and can put shier people at ease.

library as meeting placeQuiet Spots

Most big cities have plenty of co-working spaces available. (We have a plethora of great ones in Raleigh.) And they are fun places to hang out, even if you don't have someone to meet. Many extroverts (myself included) like to be out around people while we work, even if we're working independently.

If you don't have official co-working spaces in your geographic area, there are likely still plenty of quiet places to meet. Many libraries have meeting rooms and tables which can be either reserved or used on a first-come/first-serve basis, as do some bookstores. If you don't need somewhere with table space, consider a walk around a museum, or other cultural center. (In Raleigh, the JC Raulston Arboretum and Botanical Gardens comes to mind.) Anywhere peaceful and open to the public can be a good meeting location.

business meeting on golf courseActive Meetings

For decades, business deals have gone down on golf courses and racquetball courts. But if you're looking for an activity to get your heart rate up, you're not limited to those two options.

Assuming you're of similar cardiovascular health, going for a run is a great meeting option. Running is always more fun with a matched partner. Other sports which work well for 1-on-1 are tennis and basketball (so long as you don't get too over-competitive).

If those are too strenuous, a brisk walk through the park (maybe hunting some Pokémon?) is a suitable choice, as well.

If you keep an open mind, you can find meeting locations off the beaten path, which will leave an impression. As long as both parties are comfortable, you're able to converse, and it's a hospitable environment, anywhere can be a good place for a meeting.

business people

3 Questions for Defining Your "Ideal Customer"

Whenever I'm networking and have spoken to someone for more than a few minutes, the question I most dread comes up. No, not, "What do you do?"


"Who's your ideal customer?"


I feel like that's hard to answer, so I normally make a joke of it and answer like a dating show contestant. "Oh, someone who's a good listener and open to change."


But it's not entirely a joke, because, though I do tend to serve businesses of a certain size, I also do want clients to both listen to me and implement suggested improvements.


If you're having trouble defining your ideal customer, ask yourself these three questions.


Can I help them?Cleaning Service

Most businesses, particularly in the B2B or professional service realms have a certain scope within which they're comfortable. For instance, if you have a professional cleaning service, maybe you don't have enough cleaners to pick up a contract with a large office complex. On the flip side, maybe you don't do residential cleaning, because those jobs are too small for the revenue gained to cover the expenses they require. So your ideal customer is somewhere in the middle.

Or, maybe a certain company just has requirements which are out of your wheelhouse. If you are a business attorney and someone contacts you for divorce representation, they're not your ideal client. You might be able to get some business out of them, but if it's an area in which you aren't experienced, you're probably doing a disservice to you both.


Do they want my help?

Remember my date show answer about wanting a client who listens?

There will be certain clients who, though you could help them, aren't interested for whatever reason. Maybe they're a brand new business and they're not ready to outsource any services yet. Or perhaps they're a larger business who can't be convinced you have anything to offer them.

Maybe you've found that clients in certain types of businesses are less receptive to outside advice, due to the specifics of their industry. Or you haven't gotten your foot in the door with that industry yet.

None of this is to say that you can never work with these types of clients. However, for the purposes of referrals, they are not your ideal clients.


Nuclear Power PlantDo I want to work with them?

It's a fact of business that certain customers are not worth the hassle. Maybe they want to pay you bottom rates, but they require 100% on-site work (and their office is on 3-Mile Island).

Maybe they've had multiple failed business ventures, and stiffed their vendors on unpaid invoices when they closed shop. Perhaps they are unethical in their dealings with employees or customers.

If a client is going to be a lot of work for little return, or if they could bring down your reputation just by association, they're probably not the client you want to pursue first.


Again, someone being a "no" to one (or all) of these questions isn't a reason to absolutely never pursue them as a customer. However, when you are in a networking situation and only have minutes to describe who you're looking for, use these parameters to describe your "ideal" client.

Nice Guys Finish First

Anyone who knows us here at The Bookkeeper knows that we’re a pretty friendly bunch. That extends to all aspects of our lives, most notably in the way we do business. We do not care for the cynical “nice-guys-finish-last” mentality, which opines that success requires selfishness and back-stabbing. We firmly believe that kindness and goodness take you farther in business and in life.

Not buying it? Check out our tips on how to make niceness work for you.

1.) Be nice when you network.

networkYou may have also heard this phrased before as, “Don’t be interesting; be interested.” People remember the people who make them feel important, much more than the people who are just trying to look important. Imagine that you’re out at a networking event and you meet two people in identical fields.

Person A bounces around the room like a ping pong ball, making his introduction (really more of a pitch) so fast he doesn’t hear your name when you respond. He’s already moved on to his next scripted paragraph, explaining why his company is the best and how you need him for your business. He shoves a business card in your hand and tells you he’ll see you at coffee next Tuesday morning. (Did you agree to an appointment? At this point you’re so overwhelmed you’re not even sure.) Before you can open your mouth to say that Tuesday isn’t a great day for you, he’s spotted another mark over your shoulder and is striding off.

You may meet Person B later in the night. He has the same profession as Person A, but never mind that; he really wants to hear about what you do. And he actually listens when you tell him about your business. In fact, he knows someone in a complementary field who could be a really good referral partner for you; would you mind if he introduced you two? At no point does he try to sell you on his business. If you express interest in enlisting his services, he’d certainly love to follow up with you, but he lets you make the first move. Overall, he seems like he is genuinely just there to help.

So, who would you rather do business with? The nice guy, right? And if you want to work with nice guys, then everyone else probably does, too. So be the nice guy.

2.) Be nice even without the potential of reward.

meetingYou really can’t fake niceness. People can smell insincerity a mile away and we’ve all known that “friend” who only seems to come around and be helpful when they want something. True kindness is a way of life.

Here’s a real-life example (and, I won’t name names, because he’d be embarrassed if he knew I wrote this about him): I know someone who is an expert with a certain type of software. (We can call him C.) A friend-of-a-friend he’d been introduced to a week or so earlier contacted him one day about a glitch he was experiencing with the program. This man wasn’t a client, nor even a close friend; just someone he’d met once. But he spent a good part of the day emailing with the guy and trying to find out the source of the problem. They found a solution, the problem got fixed, and C forgot all about it.

A month later, the man he’d helped shows up at a networking meeting. With no prompting, he spoke up and gave C a huge kudos, and encouraged anyone who was looking for those type of services to go to C. He even said, “This is the man you want to do business with.”

He didn’t have to do that. C never said, “Sure, I’ll help solve your problem, but you’d better get me some business out of it.” He did it just to be nice. And would do it again, even if the favor hadn’t been repaid.

Because, when you’re nice, you…

3.) Do it for you.

wonderful-life2Legendary basketball coach John Wooden once stated, “You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” This can be especially true for those of us who go into business for ourselves. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can get a bad rap, as being either bloodthirsty financial sharks or paranoid penny-pinchers. But cynics aren’t the ones who start new businesses. Optimists and dreamers are the ones who launch new ventures and, while everyone would enjoy making a lot of money and becoming very rich, it’s rarely the main goal. People go into business for themselves to do what they love, to create something new and exciting, and for the freedom of being their own boss.

To look at it in (literally) black-and-white, take perennial Christmas favorite “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You can take the role of one of two* important characters in that story: nice guy and town hero George Bailey, or the miserly Mr. Potter. Only one of them is happy at the end of the movie.

* Okay, three important characters if you count Clarence. But we’re just saying you should be a nice guy; no one is asking you to be an angel.