(Time to read this article is about 2 minutes)
This year you could have lunch alone, or skip lunch altogether. But imagine what you could learn and accomplish if, just once or twice a week, you chose to have lunch with someone special. Someone who doesn’t normally have access to you. That special person could be any one of the following:
- An employee or a small group of employees. Do this on a regular basis with employees from various parts of your business, or department. Before the lunch make sure that you know what they do, if there have been challenges with them recently, if they’ve been promoted, or any training they’ve recently had. Then, at the lunch, first ‘thank’ them for being part of the Team and then, in a kindly way, ask them a few questions such as…
- How can we help you do your job better?
- What frustrates you or slows you down?
- Is there anything we can do to operate more safely?
- What could we do to be more environmentally responsible?
- From your perspective, what do we do that frustrates or confuses our customers?
- What are 3 things that we could do better?
- Do we as a company ever make promises that we don’t keep?
- What would you like to know more about regarding the business and how we operate?
- Where would you like to be in your career and life in 3 to 5 years…how can we help you get there?
Assure them that if they have any thoughts about any of these subjects in the future, you’d like to hear them and then tell them how they can best do that.
If you’re not their immediate supervisor or manager make sure that the person who is, knows about the lunch ahead of time and why you’re doing it. Then, following the lunch, touch base with that immediate supervisor or manager to let them know what was discussed, what you learned and what you commit to do as a result.
- An important customer. If you sell business to business at least twice a month take a customer to lunch. Find out ahead of time how long they’re been a customer, if their purchases from you are up or down, if there have been any ‘issues’ and how they were resolved. Do the homework. At the lunch, first, ‘thank’ them for their business then, in a kindly way, ask them a few questions such as…
- How can we serve you better?
- What are some of your business challenges with which we might be helpful?
- Are we doing anything that frustrates, confuses or concerns you?
- Are any of our competitors doing some things better than we are?
- What additional help or support would you like from us?
- How can we earn more of your business?
- A key prospect. At least once a month take a prospective customer to lunch. ‘Thank’ them for their time and ask them a few questions such as…
- What are some of the concerns or challenges in your business with which we might be helpful?
- What are our competitors doing that we should be doing…or that we should be doing better?
- Is there anything they do that causes you concern or costs you money?
Note: If the prospective customer appears to be very loyal to their current supplier(s), ask if you can be their “Emergency go-to back-up supplier”, if something goes wrong.
- A key supplier. At least once a month take a key supplier to lunch. ‘Thank’ them for their service and then ask them a few questions such as…
- Do you have any new products, services or programs with which we may not be familiar?
- From your perspective as a supplier, what will be the most important innovations and biggest market challenges in our industry in the next 5 years?
- From your observations of our business and the marketplace, what can we do to improve and grow our business? Where are we missing out?
- Are we, as a customer, doing anything that frustrates, confuses or concerns you?
- How might you and your company help us better train our staff in the features and uses of what we buy from you?
Note: Pick a lunch spot that will make conversation easy and comfortable. A spot that will honor but not intimidate your lunch guest(s). When your lunch is with employees, it can be close to your place of business. Or, it could just be sharing a great pizza with a small group of employees in a quiet corner in the office, warehouse or production facility.
When the ‘special lunch’ is with a customer, prospect or key supplier, it should be close to their place of business to be considerate of their time.
When we listen to our staff, our customers and our suppliers, two things happen. We learn from them and we honor them. So, if you think this makes sense, announce to your team that you’ll be doing this on a regular basis and that it’s not to go behind anyone’s back. It’s simply to stay in touch with the heart and soul of the business, or your department. It’s to stay in touch with ‘reality’. Designate yourself the ‘Chief Listening Officer’…but make sure you report what you discover to those who need to know.
So, with whom will you have lunch in 2019?