The Art of Wining & Dining Evolved

There was a time in my business career when I regularly dined out with vendors or suppliers of various goods and services.  Invariably, the destination for such evenings out was the classic, high end steak house.  I’ll refrain from naming names, but you know the format: à la carte menu, mostly beef, lobster or crab add-ons, creamed veggies, decent wine list, an armada of servers with those little crumb brush gadgets.  Typically, the check will come out to ~$100 a head.  For chain restaurant food.  I’ve eaten at that kind of place across America and even in western Europe.  If it’s expensive, it must be good.  Right?

Tonight I ate at one of those places (on someone else’s dime) and left wholly unsatisfied.  Stuffed, but unsatisfied.  The food was boring.  The service regimented.  The ambiance stuffy.  It was like eating at a dinner theater staged in a funeral parlor.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think the Art of Wining & Dining as a business activity has taken a left turn.  It’s no longer just about the hunk of meat and price tag.  It’s about style, about fun, about thoughtfulness.

If I were a potential customer agreeing to take time from my schedule, either while at home or on the road, I would be looking for something a little more creative:

  • What’s good?
  • What’s new?
  • What’s interesting?
  • What’s local?
  • Most importantly: what’s memorable?

Particularly when you are talking about trying to build a relationship, I think American business needs to move beyond “impressing” someone to something more meaningful.  Did your customer enjoy themselves?  Did you make a unique, differentiated impression upon them that made them think: “That was worth my time.  I would like to see these people again and learn more about why I should be in business with them.”?  To me, this is what you’re aiming for and this is how you judge the ROI on the receipt you turn in with the rest of your expenses.

Maybe that’s the longtime employee-owner talking.  Or maybe after a couple years on my own and a couple working within a very thoughtful, client-focused organization, perhaps my perspective has been influenced.  Either way, I calls it likes I sees it.  So next time you’re taking out a prospective or current client, be bold.   Take a chance and do something interesting.  Even if the food turns out to be a bust, there’s a conversation starter to be found in the shared experience of doing something different.  The End.

2009: A Brief Year in Review

Well.  Here we are once again. Another year come and gone. For some reason this year I feel like I didn’t really accomplish as many things as I’d hoped to.  I really threw myself into working with my Point B friends / colleagues to help our clients and our firm weather the storm, which took its toll on my personal time especially since my work assignments have been at client locations 30 to 45 miles from home, sapping away precious time driving on the days I need to be in the office.  I also gave up quite a few evenings for work-related outings plus business trips to Frankfurt (once), Hartford (several) and Seattle (once).  I believe it was worth it, but hoping to take a small step back in 2010.

Still, I did manage a few other things.  Made personal trips to Kīhei, Bismarck and North Platte.  Sold off my ’88 Jeep Wrangler and acquired an ’03 Flagstaff 208 pop-up camper.  Spent 300+ hours on soccer from coaching practices and games to coaching education and even playing.  Plus at least 100 more hours doing work with / for our soccer club’s board.  Soccer has become my number 1 hobby, dominating weeknights and weekends alike.  Made a batch of beer.  Built new friendships in the neighborhood where I live, which is something sort of new to me as I tend to hang out with work colleagues.  Thanks to John, Tinna, Mark and Cee Cee for the good times this year!  And thanks to Julie for getting me out of my office to socialize.  Helped out Erin with her school’s Flat Stanley Project.  Hosted Thanksgiving for 11 including my first fried turkey (much to learn about that process).  Sitting at 591 LinkedIn connections and 259 Facebook connections.  Posted to this blog a dozen times and 8 times on  I say it every year, but I need to write more!  Supported Bal Swan Children’s Center and Hope House of Colorado.

Now for some New Years’ resolutions.  I need to run, ride and swim more.  My mileage (e.g. only 358 run miles in 2009) was pushed down to the bare minimum and that has to change.  More beer making.  I need to work with Grace on posting to the family blog.  She’s become a wonderful, imaginative writer and should be leveraging the outlet.  A bit less soccer (although I’m not sure how I will make that happen yet).  Put the new camper to use and accrue a lot of outdoors time this coming summer.  I live in Colorado.  Time to get back to why we live here.

And I leave you with this: JibJab’s usual irreverent compilation of recent events encapsulated in their short film entitled Never a Year Like ’09.