Why I Drove From LA to San Francisco For a Coffee Meeting -- Twice
As the founder and CEO of a growing startup, there are a lot of obstacles to overcome and challenges that arise with the added responsibility. The earlier the stage of the startup lifecycle, the more you have on your plate on a granular level. It's then easy to see that as an early-stage founder, CEO stands more for "chief everything officer" than it does chief executive. So, I know how difficult it can be to carve out chunks of time in your calendar for all the little to-do’s.
But, through all that there is one thing I will always make time for: sitting down for a cup of coffee either with a peer, a mentor or someone completely new. How much do I value face-to-face meetings? I twice drove six hours from Los Angeles (where AirFive is based) to San Francisco for a coffee, only to turn right back around and drive home. This is because there is no substitute to in-person interactions, and when someone can make time to squeeze me in their busy schedule, it makes my day.
1. Meeting face-to-face adds much needed context to the conversation.
The ability to read the room, read the people sitting across from you. You can quickly adapt to know what they mean, not just what they say. Reading someone’s body language is oftentimes more significant than the words being spoken. We all know that actions speak louder than words.
What you see today is almost the opposite. Technology has given rise to a loneliness epidemic. We live in a world where people think their Facebook friends will be there through thick and thin and their 500-plus LinkedIn connections will actually deliver invaluable favors. I recently was endorsed for a “skill” I never really possessed by someone I didn’t really know. Further, you can also tell people what you want to be endorsed for. How about showing someone you can do something, instead of asking for it?
2. I want to plug in to as many groups as possible.
Networking in clusters is probably the best predictor of future success. You must network outside of your friend group, or groups, to grow your network. The best part of this is you can take information from one group (cluster) and trade that information in another group, making you look like something of an expert in that cluster. In this fashion, you become the nexus in your networking circles, establishing yourself as the point of contact for the different clusters.
But where do I start? When I speak to groups, I relay to them that one of the best ways to set themselves up for success is by plugging into their alumni or college networks -- the students, recent alumni and others who will gladly pass along the knowledge they have learned. They will do this for no other reason than because they were once in your shoes. Using this network is a great opportunity to turn those mundane email threads into lively in-person meetings. Doing so also puts you on your way to becoming (actually) social.
3. Meeting in person contributes to your happiness.
How does it feel when that person doesn’t swipe right back? Not very good. If this happens over and over, it can lead to some depressing nights. Further, jamming online or in an app with someone is void of the emotional contagion that is present in real social situations. Meeting in person has tremendous benefits that can also contribute to your overall happiness. Bestselling author of The Happiness Project, and host of the Happier podcast, Gretchen Rubin told me, “One thing ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists can agree on is that one of the most important factors in happiness -- perhaps the most important factor -- is relationships.” My takeaway from that is you can build more meaningful, deeper relationships in-person that will ultimately lead to greater happiness.
4. You can build faster relationships in person.
Meeting people in person allows them to feel out the space, to feel you out and to understand with their gut if they want to do business with you in the future. When people do this, it builds “like.” When people “like” you they are en route to trusting you. When you have their trust, you have a true, meaningful relationship. This can all be fast-tracked when you meet in person.
Lastly, always acknowledge the value of the time of your coffee counterpart. Keep it light: I often add to my messages that I come with a “10-minute coffee guarantee.” Keep it short. It doesn’t need to be lengthy. I have learned more in a coffee break than I have at some jobs. So, get a little face-to-face in your life, maybe not every day, but make time -- if it doesn’t make your day, you can rest assured it made someone else’s.