Keep the Caffeine and the Conversations Flowing

| by Bert Armstrong

On the contact page of the Armstrong McGuire website, we say that many of our best client engagements start with a simple conversation. Many of these happen at local coffee shops and I'm a sucker for picking up the tab.  Over the years, my expenditures on cups of coffee (or Diet Coke if you know quality caffeine when you taste it) rivals the amount spent on other marketing and business development activities. 

I meet people for lots of different reasons.  

  • Introductions to prospective clients wanting to know more about our firm's services (always a crowd favorite among the Armstrong McGuire team)  
  • Interviews with potential donors eager to share their ideas about the feasibility of a campaign being planned by a school, church or nonprofit they care about 
  • Great candidates we are vetting for a chief executive or senior level professional position with one of our clients
  • Emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector who want to pick my brain and brainstorm about new solutions to the challenges facing our sector
  • Long time colleagues who who like to laugh about, or lament, the mistakes we've made (and hopefully learned from) over the years
  • People looking to make a career move or find great volunteer opportunities in the nonprofit sector
  • Folks working in businesses that provide complementary services to the work of our firm

Phone calls, texts, tweets, posts, email and other forms of communication play key roles in how we communicate with each other and they are necessary tools when distance, time and other barriers are put between us. But never, ever underestimate the tremendous value of meeting face to face. While it may not be the most expedient route, it is the most effective way to really listen, learn, teach, nurture, encourage, find agreement, settle disagreements, build new relationships, and renew ties with old friends and colleagues. 

There are conversations that I have out of a sense of duty, obligation, or a favor for a friend. Some of these are enlightening and beneficial while others are painfully unproductive.  Like all of you, there are times when I have opted out of hard conversations in favor of an impersonal email or a timely phone call when you know you will be sent to voice mail.  There are times when I have cancelled meetings because I just wasn't up for the high emotion or awkward discussion that was coming - sometimes with people I know well and sometimes with people I don't know at all.  

But most of the time I am renewed and energized whenever I can have an in-person conversation with someone, about something that we both care about.  We don't always agree.  In fact some of the best conversations I've ever had have been with people who disagree with me at some level - especially politics.  We don't always find ways to work together.  And we don't always make strong connections or grow to become best friends.  But I leave most of these visits a little bit wiser and a lot more fulfilled knowing that I have shared quality time and conversation. 

I may switch to decaf in the coming years, but I expect to continue these coffee conversations for as long as my budget and bladder permit. Call me if you're up for an interesting discussion and we'll put a time on the calendar.

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