Matt Sweetwood found a new strategy in attracting investors into his new company — bond with them. Here’s how it happened.
One meeting I had last week had a surprisingly different flow.
My company is called beBee.com. It is an 18-month old professional social network (think LinkedIn on steroids), and is looking for more investors to help fund the growth of our network – well beyond the 11 million worldwide users we currently have. As a result, I have had a full schedule of high pressure power business meetings. Those who have participated in these kinds of meetings know how they typically go. You meet in some nondescript conference room, shake hands, greet each other, small talk for 30 seconds and get to the business at hand. When the business is done you shake hands and head off on your merry way.
Here is how this particular meeting went:
I was greeted by my broker (who I have known for only a week) and then by one of the gentleman from the investment firm I was meeting with. He asked me to sit in the kitchen area and chat before everyone else arrived. I was very prepared for the meeting with all my numbers and reasoning in good order. To my surprise, he started the conversation with me by asking nothing about beBee. He asked me how I was doing and to tell him why I am personally involved in this project. I was a little thrown off, but we ended up having a pleasant 10 minute conversation and learned a bit about each other – not financially, but as men. We bonded a little over both being divorced.
When we all gathered in the conference room, we again did not begin with a business discussion. The same gentleman who had asked me about me previously, began the meeting by saying:
“Gentleman, if we were women and we were having this meeting, we might begin by turning to one another and asking how each other was doing and show concern for each other’s personal side. There is nothing wrong with male bonding and in fact, we have to start sending a message that it’s ok for men to show their emotional beings. So why don’t we all share something about ourselves here?”
It felt a little awkward in that business setting but I explained that I was a single-dad who raised his kids on his own since their mother walked out on us 20 years ago. And I write for The Good Men Project. which is all about the changing roles and view of men in society – “A glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like.” Everyone took turns sharing about themselves. The whole dynamic in the room changed. It was one of those moments you will remember long after the business part is forgotten.
There we were, five men, including an African American, a Latin American, and a Jew – all coming together and gaining an appreciation for each other. We didn’t have a trivial discussion about the Yankees game. We actually spoke about meaningful things in our lives. As a result, the meeting had a completely different feel than most and I do believe we actually had a better understanding of the business we could do together – all because we created a bond than men don’t usually do in business meetings.
Whether we end up doing business with this particular investment firm is still undecided, but I personally got something way more valuable from this meeting. It was an acknowledgement that it’s ok to bond with other dudes in business, just like women do, and it actually creates a better business environment.
From now on, when I hold business meetings (even if there are only men in the room), I am going to insist we begin by sharing something personal or interesting about ourselves. It really does build better business – and I will admit it, it feels good.