Why I Don’t Want to Have Coffee With You
I am truly flattered by everyone who “wants to pick my brain”, thinks “it would be good to get on a call” or does not even bother to respectfully ask for my time. I was looking to express my sentiments, but was struggling mightily to balance a firm decline with the right level of courteousness. Then I came across this original post by Gene Marks from 2015, which almost perfectly fit my situation, so I decided “good artists borrow, great artists steal”, and adapt this for my purpose. So here it goes…..
Please … I don’t want to have coffee with you.
I do not mean to sound rude. I really, really appreciate that you would like to get together. But I am a startup entrepreneur and also run a non-profit organization with close to 3,000 members. My days are really busy, and I do not have the time to just “have coffee.”
I know you are a nice person and that a face-to-face meeting may very well help us in our relationship. There are some people I know who thrive on meeting others for coffee, lunch and dinner. But unfortunately I am not one of those people. This is not something I really want to do. If I am not working on the next deal, I focus quite a bit on driving forward our Tokyo FinTech community that if I do have any available time I’d prefer to spend it with my lovely wife. So having coffee with you is really low on my priority list.
But I will tell you what, there are some circumstances where I will have coffee with you. Here is what they are:
1. We have coffee over the phone
That means that you have a cup of coffee, and I have a cup of coffee, except we are both drinking our coffees from our own offices and just talking on the phone. I do not mind setting up phone appointments. It is a good way to get to know each other and you can accomplish a lot from just a 20-minute conversation.
A phone conversation may cover all that we need to cover. And who knows? I may actually be enticed to get off my butt to leave my office and meet with you if we both agree that there is a reason to actually meet face-to-face. The best thing about a phone conversation is that it is a much smaller investment of time than leaving the office and taking the subway somewhere to meet you.
2. You are a client
Clients are my first priority. If a client says they want to meet me for coffee, or any other reason, I meet them for coffee. Of course, there are limits. I am not going to leave my office for a very small client, because even though all clients are important to me, I admit that some are more important than others to my business. But for the most part getting out and meeting a client is always something important for me to do. And I would rather drink coffee with them at their offices so I can walk around, see how they are using our products and provide some type of help.
3. You have a client for me
I will meet you for coffee if you have got a specific client, project or opportunity that needs my specific help for specific services. Sometimes a friend of mine will call me and say, “we are working on this client project and they are really interested in your experience. Can we meet for coffee about this?” When I get a call like that, I meet for coffee.
I am not a touchy-feely person and I am not into getting to know you over coffee unless there is some actual dollars involved. With over 20 years experience in capital markets, I also value my time a little higher than a cup of coffee, so if you are “wondering if you have any slots open on Mon, Tue, or Wed for me to buy you a coffee and learn about Open Banking in Japan?”, then the answer is no.
4. I owe you
If you have done something for me in the past, referred me work or helped me out and you want to get together for coffee than I am more inclined. There is a history there. We have got a track record. We are now familiar with each other and what we do because we have done something together in the past.
You have previously helped me. I want to make sure I am helping you and keeping you happy. Because you have proved you are for real. You now want to meet for coffee so we can discuss other ways we can work together based on what we have done before? I am OK with that. With a global network as large as mine, I am continuously paying back old debt, that is a priority for me.
5. You are a genuine, bona-fide prospect
You want to get together for coffee because you are specifically looking for someone with my experience, or for the services of the companies we represent. You are in the research (or testing phase). You have done your due diligence. You are not a tiny project but a decent-sized one (and that definition at least for me changes based on the economic circumstance of the times and our overall pipeline, I am sorry to admit). You have a budget, a timeline, a need and ownership support. You are a serious buyer and you are looking to have a serious conversation. I will have coffee with you.
My time is limited. My resources are scarce. My patience is thin. I am a startup operator fighting for every dollar of revenue. And unless you fit into one of these five categories, I am sorry — but I do not want to meet and have coffee with you right now.
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