Boundaries in Business - The 'Coffee Meet' Dilemma
Oh Business...why are you so complex and difficult! And business for the single woman? Well....another topic all on it's own. I usually have a personal rule for myself. Never do a coffee with a fellow single business man; or to have a coffee in a public place that is full of others having their business meetings. On occasion I have moved away from that as the fellow businessman is very clearly just that. A true professional and integrous businessman.
Recently this summer I had an experience that strongly encouraged me to create an atmosphere, not only for myself, but for other business women. Let me briefly share my experience of awesomeness...
I had wanted to connect with a few people who had a business that would be a great referral blend with mine. To me, collaboration is a great tool. You get to know your collaborators and both parties are genuinely interested and invested in great referrals because their products and business services blend. I'd had a businessman connect and want to 'meet up'. Of course...I'm a tad naive and I was viewing it from a business stance. I kept getting a feeling of, I think this person is very assumptive and this seems like a tactic to meet for personal purposes. So - I blew the idea off and shut it down for quite some time. I noticed we had multiple mutual social media contacts and those mutual contacts were very reputable and good people.
After awhile I got wore down ... (you know what I mean)...the constant and regular insistence...
So, I stated it would be great to 'collaborate and see if our businesses were a fit.' I thought that would paint the picture of the platform I was setting. I made sure to take much time to respond to set another boundary. I also kept my answer very short and to the point. And cancelled a few times to set other boundaries.
After still getting an off feeling...I thought to myself, 'oh grow up....stop being paranoid. Suck it up and go for a coffee. Quit assuming. You've set boundaries and others seem to respect this individual...take the chance.' This is business. So I went.
Long story short...my gut feeling was right. It didn't take long to see there was zero interest in discussing business. Coffee seemed to hold stories of personal success and a whole dating history... and then it happened. The major pressure move to go for an 'early dinner' as we haven't had time to discuss business.' It was followed by flattery and compliments (which I saw right through), but again, thought many seem to trust this person, they must be safe, they are probably one of those very over the top individuals, and who does business or collaborates after a one hour coffee....
So, I talked myself into believing, not a big deal.
The lesson I learnt? I was right. There was zero intention to discuss business whatsoever. And for me, I couldn't run fast enough. I sat poised and trying to contribute to the conversation, but a part of me was furious I had been deceived into a social dinner. I went home and thought - calm down. Stop over reacting. You might be assuming too much. In the days and weeks that followed, I noticed a pattern. A series of continuous hashtags and comments that alluded to the fact that, this seems to happen a lot. Then I had a horrifying thought. I wonder how many women like myself, assumed and intended to have a business coffee with someone that was 'trusted and credible', yet were unknowingly 'on a date'.
I have removed said person from my world as I do not support that style of business. So, I sat down with my team and we created a solution to help connect business people and collaborators.
Every month, we are personally inviting business people we have grown to respect, have watched and see they walk their talk, and are holding a 2 hour networking night with a theme. September is 'The Mad Hatter' theme. Oct is going to be our version of 'The White Party', Nov is going to be 'The Great Gatsby' and Dec is going to be our version of 'The Red Party'. And so on...
Here's 5 things I think we all need to remember when in business:
1. Our personal experiences shape us and follow us into our business.
What do I mean? If you have had an abusive relationship or negative business experience, being hog-tied into an experience like I had can be detrimental to your physical, emotional and mental health. For me, I felt like I was 'kidnapped and held hostage for dinner'. Because extreme steps were taken to ensure I had to be 'given a ride', 'taken to the regular dining place', 'immediately introduced to multiple people. In all fairness, this may be the standard norm of what takes place with singles when they do business. Perhaps even just who this individual is. But for me, coming from what I have weathered, it was 100% the wrong approach and I felt violated and very uncomfortable.
2. The Buddy System: get a buddy to come along, or set a firm meeting immediately following so there is an escape route if needed.
3. Write down your boundaries: write them on a flash card and keep them in your purse. As a reminder to not back down. Set your alarm and title it 'business boundaries'; do something that will keep you focused on the meeting.
4. Do your own homework. Don't rely on how others seem to interact with a person, listen to how you feel when you interact. Not every business is meant to blend.
5. Be aware and value yourself enough to input a strong and definitive 'NO'. Nothing more else needs to be said. Don't allow anyone to play games with your confidence.
Business should be a safe place. After all, your home is your sanctuary and after all the hard work and dedication you have invested into your company, it should also be your sanctuary and safe place. This applies to both women and men. Let's all stay classy and make the world a better place by supporting each other and having each others backs. There's still teamwork even if you are the lone ranger in a sole proprietor business.