Consulting tip: never eat alone

By | December 23, 2016

Everyone has some free time during the holidays. Recently, I have not been traveling which has opened up my schedule to share food with friends from my past. Folks from my MBA, previous work, and neighbors (hat tip: DB, CC, CO, PB, KL, JK, SL, PD, RJ, DW, SB, JP, RD). When you don’t travel M-TH, it opens up a completely new social world of breakfast, coffee, and lunches. The key is to use your time wisely and invest in people. Never eat alone.


Note – when you travel with consulting teams, you have a very social world too. Lots of good food and good times, but they are all fired-up consultants – talking a lot about work – which has its own drawbacks.

Now more than ever – I am focused on really connecting with people, finding common ground, and investing in people, experiences, memories and assets. For real friends . . .we talk about all the things you should not – politics, religion, money, relationships, and happiness.  If we are just acquaintances, those topics might be taboo for now. . . but trust me, I will probably bring them up in the next few meetings.

For those who I look to get to know better, or want to influence. . . no topic is really off-the-table. The same is true with family – parents and siblings – we should talk about things that matter: goals, dreams, frustrations, relationships. Talk about #^$t that matters. As Tony Robbins says, it’s all about growth and generosity. If we are talking about the weather, traffic, sports, or workplace politics – honestly, we are wasting each other’s time.

All these lunches remind me of a book by the same title: Never Eat Alone.  It was written by the ex-chief marketing officer of Deloitte named Keith Ferrazzi (affiliate link) and he argues a super simple point. Spend your (valuable) time with people.  Yes, people.

As my brother-in-law often complains, business books should all be 20 pages because they needlessly give 30 examples of the same thing. This book definitely meets that stereotype. It could be 20 pages, instead of 400.  That said, his point is important and perhaps deserves 20x repetition. Life is about people. Once you get past the analyst-level, individual-contributor level in an organization, you will find that success/progress entirely depends on people – not skills, knowledge, and education. People. People.

Step 1: Go through your linkedin and find people you would like to get to know better, who you would like to invest in, who you believe could be a good influence on you.

Step 2: Email, phone, text and get a meal set up. (honestly, coffee, lunch, breakfast, who does not want to “break bread with you?”)

Step 3: Have fun, be available, be human. Ask the question, “how can I help you with what you are doing,”  Be useful to someone.

PS.There many ways to help someone .  . .

  • Listen to their situation – see if you can add insight, wisdom, knowledge
  • Connect them with key people in your linkedin network
  • Proof read their deliverables, proposals or resumes
  • Forward them key analyst reports, research, best practices
  • Encourage them – send them cool podcasts, or buy them a book
  • Give constructive feedback on their ideas or plans
  • Outsource work to them (no matter how trivial or small)
  • Write them a recommendation or forward their resume to a recruiter
  • Be yourself, be present. Pay for lunch.

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8 thoughts on “Consulting tip: never eat alone

  1. Pat

    Good post, I hope you are enjoying your holiday season. One thought I’ve had as I begin my career and have become aware of books like How To Win Friends And Influence People, or Never Eat Alone is that the prevailing models for success in business are hinged on a highly extroverted way of life. How does one who enjoys more introverted activities or finds that better work is done in solitude find a path to success in business? Are there strategies for people who are more introverted?

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      That is a such a cool question. Have not done thought/research on it – so will definitely post about it in the future, but it’s never been a better time for introverts to succeed for two reasons. . . 1) the vast accessibility of the internet makes it easy for people to FIND YOU vs. you selling them 2) there is a surprising shortage of thoughtful, measured, precise work being done (lots of extroverted HYPE and not a lot of introverted CRAFTSMANSHIP)

      That said, if you know that communication / presentation / marketing / business development / sales / networking is not your preference, choose the fields, functions, industries, and problems to solve that require less of that.

      Also, find a partner who can do those things. For example, the founder of HONDA was a super outgoing, showman, eccentric genius. However, he had a partner who was COO – Fujisawa who did a lot of the strategy, logistics, operations and finance.

      Finally, remember the STRATEGY means to compete differently. So find your DIFFERENCE and double-down on it. . .

      1. Pat

        I definitely agree with the point about the internet allowing others to find you. Generating thought leadership and a strong online presence can enable those who are not as sales oriented to achieve a similar (and in some cases greater) audience than one would be able to generate via in person activities. I’m a big fan of this blog, thank you for all the insights.

        1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

          Thanks for reading. It’s great fun to interact with folks like you. Have a great 2017.

  2. son....

    This is such nice post it should be applicable to our day to day life also. As you said that never eat alone it should we used in business profession also as neither thought to only self profit either others also.

  3. John

    This is a fantastic blog, thanks for generously investing in it and sharing it with the world. Last week HBR dedicated a number of articles to the topic of ‘generosity burnout’ which fascinated me. I’m generally very helpful by nature in all domains of life, sometimes to my own detriment in my ability to manage my own time/health/energy levels. I’ve been reading non-stop for over an hour and can see you also share an incredible sense of generosity. If you get a chance to read the first article of the series ( I’m curious to ask firstly where you lie on the spectrum and secondly how you decide where to invest your time and energy? Are they informed by a strong compass of where you want to go/what you want to achieve/who you want to be etc. Would appreciate your thoughts, thanks again for your generosity.

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Many thanks. Will definitely read it. Yes, I definitely err on the the side of generosity and empathy – and that is not always prudent, appropriate, or smart – as I have found out.

      Will read and reply. Thanks for the heads up. Be good.

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