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The ultimate business art
Robin Jay, Forbes | April 12, 2006
I have been on more than 3,000 client lunches. My own clients began calling me "The Queen of the Business Lunch" at about the 2,000-mark. The reason I prefer to do business over a meal, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, is because it breaks down certain barriers -- especially those barriers that exist within office walls.
Bringing a social situation into a business relationship can be absolute magic -- if it's done correctly.
But what happens when you need those barriers? Ask any professional business woman if she's ever had male co-workers or clients misinterpret her intentions or come on to her with no apparent encouragement, and you will likely get a stunned "Are you kidding? Of course I have!" as her response.
Likewise, believe it or not, I have also heard from men that they can't get over how forward or crass some of today's professional women can be.
So how can both sexes take advantage of the benefits that socializing with clients can offer without jeopardizing the very relationships they are trying so hard to build and elevate?
I wrote The Art of the Business Lunch -- Building Relationships Between 12 and 2 to help professionals navigate these muddy waters because nearly everyone I spoke to admitted a reluctance to take advantage of this wonderful mealtime opportunity.
The reluctance comes from fear and uncertainty. How much joking is too much? What about the use of foul language? Does swearing have any place in the business world? And what about socializing at "gentleman's clubs?"
Does this popular trend really move business forward, and does the fraternity mentality exclude professional women? What is the best way to build better business relationships without sending -- or receiving -- the wrong signal?
I've often joked that taking a new client or prospect out to lunch is a lot like a blind date. If you are not prepared, it can be awkward, uncomfortable and an utter disaster. If you've ever been on a blind date, then you are, no doubt, nodding in agreement right now.
This is because of an element that Hollywood refers to as "sexual tension." Remember the TV show Cheers? Once Sam and Diane became intimate, it was a challenge for the writers to recapture the tension and conflict; great comedy is the result of conflict and ultimate resolution.
Sexual tension definitely exists in the workplace. In fact, more than 40% of all married people met their spouses through work. If an attraction is mutual, then there is little anyone can say about it without sounding like one's mother.
Still, determining that a relationship is mutual can be a lawsuit just waiting to happen. The real challenge comes when two people need to define a relationship as strictly business while still trying to keep it fun and sociable.
I have countless relationships with men with whom I have worked, and, in some cases, I probably know things about them that their wives or girlfriends may not even know. We have interesting relationships -- and they are all above board. I learned the right way to conduct myself so that fun can rule and business will still take top billing. Here are some helpful tips.
Robin Jay is a consultant, motivational speaker, corporate trainer and coach since retiring from an award-winning career in advertising.