The advice-seeking coffee or lunch is standard fare in most business communities. It usually goes something like this: you email someone you admire and ask if you can chat. Sometimes you are ignored. When you’re lucky, your role models will say yes, and you now have someone you respect in your corner.

Entrepreneur Steve Blank gets these requests all the time, and he has advice for those seeking his (and other busy folks’) time:

The meeting requests that now jump to the top of my list are the few, very smart entrepreneurs who say, “I’d like to have coffee to bounce an idea off of you and in exchange I’ll tell you all about what we learned about xx.”

This offer of teaching me something changes the agenda of the meeting from a one-way, you’re learning from me, to a two-way, we’re learning from each other.

Include how you’ll help the other party in the meeting request. Not only can you offer them value, but it serves as yet another sounding board for your ideas. Brilliant.

Previously: Steve Blank: Lessons From 35 Years of Making Startups Fail Less

  • Gerhard Vierthaler

    Good point – I’ll take many, too many meeting requests for entrepreneurs to get feedback, pick my brain over coffee. But there is a silver lining: I learn a lot from these enthusiastic, young people – I value their view points, ideas and different insights to common approaches. We are always learning new things.

  • Dr. Selena Tramayne

    This is really going to depend on who you want to meet with. Do some research on the person, their company, etc. Anything you can find. Then you can offer insight from a book, research articles, conferences you’ve attended, etc. based on what you know and what you think might be valuable for them specifically.

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