March 26, 2009

Do Your Homework Before a Meeting

This post is a bit of rant about some of my professional experiences during the past few months. One of my professional strengths is that I arrive at meetings extremely prepared. I take the time to learn as much as possible about a company or person prior to my meeting. I review websites, new articles, press releases, and business reports just to name a few, which may take several hours of my time. In a business meeting, one party is seeking to gain something from the other. If you are looking to benefit from an individual's knowledge or sources (financial, technical, contacts, etc.), please take the time to learn about the person's business and interests prior to the meeting.

For example, a gentleman was seeking funding for a project he organized to develop businesses for the local population in central Africa. (On the surface, this project was aligned with my business and social interests.) Via e-mail, he sent me a 27-page business plan that contained all the financial and logistical details. Since he is in California and I am in Seattle, we agreed to allocate some time on the telephone so that I can listen to his pitch. I spent two hours the night before going over every detail of his business strategy. Can you imagine how dismayed I was when he informed me that he did not take the time to visit my website and blog to learn about my interests and background? A simple online search of my name would have led to my blog, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter page. His lack of preparedness was a key reason I decided not to support his project.

Another individual contacted me about getting involved with a couple of my entrepreneurial or consulting projects. He was referred to me by a good friend who thought that I can provide some advice or useful contacts. I was happy to schedule some time to meet for a cup of coffee and suggested that this person send his résumé to me prior to our meeting. I took the time to review his résumé and provided comments and recommendations to strengthen the document from an employer's perspective. Again, through our conversation, I learned that this individual failed to take the time to "Google" me.

I think many people underestimate the value of first impressions. Showing up at a meeting unprepared is the quickest way to fail in pitching your proposal. With today's electronic sources, it is easy to search a name and find information about a company or individual. The person you are meeting with is allocating a portion of their valuable time, so please make an effort to learn about their business or personal interests beforehand. Conduct your due diligence and arrive prepared!!

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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