Better Business Lunches in 10 Minutes a Day

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 12, 2010 in: Time Management Strategies, Tips in 10

Yes, you read that correctly, you can enjoy better business lunches in 10 minutes. It is possible. I’m going to show you how. No, it does not involve packing your food into your cheeks and chewing it later like a chipmunk.

First, let’s talk about “what” and “why”.

What

I don’t need to tell you that business lunches are lunches you eat while on business. But what I do want to tell you is this: They are made up of some important factors that are important to their success:

  • They are typically uninterrupted (or, more accurately, less interrupted).
  • They mix casual (“this is some weather we’re experiencing”) with business (“so, let’s talk about the service you’re receiving from us”).
  • And there’s eating!

Why

Business lunches are valuable. Invaluable, I’d say. Lots of things happen over business lunch because two (or more) people sit down for an uninterrupted period of time to eat and talk. The mix of casual-plus-business and the eating-plus-conversation is an equation that results in sales, business ideas, new enterprises, problems solved, new jobs, new vendors, better business, and so much more.

But there are some problems:

We don’t always have the hour or hour-and-a-half that is needed for a business lunch. (If you do, that’s great. But many people I know simply don’t have that time). In fact, we want to experience the benefits of a business lunch but we’re stuck at our desks. Or, the kind of business we run doesn’t always benefit from a typical business lunch (because we sell digital products, for example).

I believe that entrepreneurs, freelancers, small business owners, and coaches can enjoy effective business lunches and I’m going to show you a few ways that you can spend 10 minutes to enjoy better business lunches.

Option 1: Spend ten minutes before lunch to prepare

If you are going out for a regular business lunch (and by “regular” I mean you’re expecting to spend an hour or an hour and a half at a restaurant), you should spend 10 minutes before lunch to prepare. It doesn’t matter whether you are the inviter or the invitee, take the time to prepare.

  • Research the person you’re eating with or their business. For example, if a sales person has asked you to join them for lunch, take the time to learn more about them and their business. Or, if you are the sales person and you invited someone for lunch, take the time to learn about them.
  • Write out at least one goal you want to achieve. Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re the initiator of the meal or not. If you are the initiator of the meal, you might have the goal of “closing the deal” or “gaining a client” by the end of the meal. But if you’ve been invited out for lunch, you can still have a goal. If you’re eating with a business mentor, your goal is easy: Learn something! If you’re eating with a sales person, your goal is a little more challenging but you should still find it. Perhaps your goal might be: “Get the lowest price possible for the product I’m about to commit to.”
  • Make notes. You don’t have to bring them with you but if you make notes about what your goal is and how you are going to achieve it, you will be so prepared! For example, if your goal is to get the lowest price possible for the product that you’re about to commit to, try researching the product’s price, finding out what others are paying for it, determining how much you need of it on any given month, and what you can afford to pay. Leave your notes in your office but the act of writing the notes will help.

Option 2: Eat for ten minutes

Hey, we’re all busy. I’d love to be able to spend an hour to an hour and a half eating at a restaurant every day. But the truth is, none of us have the time (and it’s also hard on our wallets and our diets, right?). So, consider a faster option (which is less appropriate if you’re a sales person inviting someone out on a sales lunch but is more appropriate if this business lunch is a peer-to-peer lunch or if you’re eating with a business mentor):

  • Pack a lunch and eat part of it at the park with the person you’re meeting. You can eat the rest of it on your own in the office, but simply meeting for a few minutes out of the office for some eating-plus-conversation will be good.
  • Even a business lunch that includes juice and a salad at a local restaurant can be a quick (and healthy) way to benefit from a business lunch without the time (or cholesterol) commitment.

There are no rules saying your business lunch needs to be the ENTIRE lunch or an ENTIRE hour. I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you get together for part of your lunch. Of course I’d suggest that you still have a goal in mind when you meet.

Again, if you’re a sales person, this might not be a great option since it could seem less classy to invite your prospect to bring their own sandwich and meet you in the park. But a business peer would likely embrace the idea of a faster lunch and a bit of fresh air during a busy day.

Option 3: Virtual lunch in ten minutes

Sometimes we can’t get away from our desks. That’s the reality of life in today’s business world. We might have to cover the phones or we might have a crazy day or we might only have a few minutes between meetings. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a few minutes break with a quick lunch while also getting the benefits of a business lunch:

  • Schedule a chat/IM session with a friend with the expressed intention of making it a quick virtual business lunch. Like other business lunches, arrive with a goal and eat while you chat. (A joke about not typing while you have food in your hands seems like it might fit here).
  • Participate in Business Lunch Club, which is a project I’ve co-created and it is designed exactly for this purpose: Business owners and professionals who are stuck at their desks can participate by adding “#blc” to their tweets and visiting businesslunchclub.com to see business lunch conversations, interviews, and seminars unfold. You can DM your peers for a side conversation or you can participate in the broader discussion… just be sure to add the hashtag #blc in order to participate.

These ideas won’t replace the traditional hour-long lunches that businesses thrive on. They are still important and valuable. But, entrepreneurs who want to benefit from business lunches but don’t always have the time commitment can still enjoy ten minute lunches that help to grow their businesses.

Bonus tip:

One important thing to state, if you don’t have ‘something’ that you have to do during your lunch time, take a rest. Sometimes that mid-day rest from work is what we need. Read a few chapters of a book or enjoy casual conversation by participating on Twitter with the Business Lunch Club.

Heather Recommends:

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