This week’s column involves some skiting, so please forgive this moment of immodesty. I recently had coffee with the owner of a small consulting firm. His secretary had called me a few weeks earlier and asked if I would be interested in meeting her boss. I agreed, arrangements were made and thus the coffee meeting.
He seemed a little anxious as we sat down. “I’ve never done this before but I’m a subscriber to BRW and the favourite part of the magazine is your column; it’s the first page I turn to every week and I finally decided that I wanted to meet you to tell you face to face how much I enjoy your column,” he said. “You’re a straight shooter, you’re never afraid to express an opinion and you always go to the heart of the issues that matter to me as a business owner.”
This was no small compliment, and I thanked him for it, but I could see he was still concerned that he may be wasting my time. “I feel like a besotted fan, but don’t worry I’m not going to ask you for your autograph.” (And here was I, poised).
Far from wasting my time, we had a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation. My no longer-secret admirer specialised in working with rural communities and agribusinesses and he offered some revealing insights into issues facing rural and regional Australia. He was an employer of 30 people and we also discussed some of the workplace issues that occupied him as a small business person – a couple of which I shall pursue. All in all, it was a very pleasant and beneficial interlude, as such meetings can be , and I had another useful name for my contact book.
It occurred to me afterwards that not only was I chuffed by this encounter; I was also impressed. Most of us would not think to pick up the phone or send an email to someone we respect and say: “I admire what you do and I would like to meet you.” Sure, there would be some awkwardness involved, as my friend’s experience suggests – and he was no shrinking violet. But rather than admire someone from afar, there is every reason to take the initiative and seek an informal meeting.
In most cases, subject to availability, I suspect that the recipient of such an invitation would be delighted to accept. For the issuer of that invitation it’s an opportunity to learn, share experiences and enjoy some (hopefully) inspiring company. But as my experience illustrates, such meetings can be a positive experience for both parties.