Jan 8 2018

@bfeld User Manual: Business Dinners

I love the idea of A User Manual To Working With Me. A number of the CEOs we work with have written them and Seth sends out a letter to all new founders about working with us.

While I occasionally think about writing an @bfeld User Manual, I never manage to get around to it. On our Q4 vacation, Amy and I talked a lot about dinners out, especially my own struggle with dinners with large groups of people, which caused me to reflect on how I approach dinners out in general.

Business dinners have become increasingly challenging for me for a number of reasons. I’m an introvert, so when the dinner is more than four people, it’s extremely draining for me. I no longer drink, so every dinner lasts at least 33% too long. I’m a vegetarian and am now eating very lightly at dinner, so the experience of dinner is much less important to me. I’ve been to all the restaurants in Boulder many times, so there’s no novelty in the experience. I’ve got a 30-minute drive home from downtown Boulder to my house, so getting home is dinner_end_time + 30 minutes.

I go to bed early (usually before 10 pm) so dinners often are the only thing I do in the evening before going to bed. I love to lay on the couch with Amy and read in the evening before I go to sleep, so this decompression from the day is almost always lost when I have a business dinner. I also love evenings at home with just Amy, business dinners out take time away from this for us.

That said, business dinners are part of my work. I’ve been to at least 1,351 board dinners in the last 25 years. I typically have business dinners three or four times each week, every week. I almost always have at least four major dinner-related events (with greater than 25 people) each month. Simply deciding not to do business dinners isn’t an option as long as I do the work I’m doing.

To solve for this, and make business dinners more enjoyable and productive from my frame of reference, following is the best way to have a business dinner with me.

  • The maximum number of people at dinner should be eight.
  • Dinner should start early (I love 6 pm start times).
  • I’m indifferent to the restaurant – you choose.
  • I’m going to be fully engaged during dinner, but as the group gets larger, my focus becomes on the people seated immediately next to me.
  • Don’t worry about what I do, or don’t, eat. And don’t be surprised if I don’t eat anything.
  • I don’t mind if you (and the other people) stay later than 8 pm, but I’d like to leave then.

I’m sure I’ll end up at some dinners, and events, that don’t fit this profile. By default, I’m no longer going to board dinners, although I’ll make exceptions when necessary. Amy occasionally likes to go to galas and big public events, so I’ll tag along for those. And, of course, I can comfortably do these periodically. But, if you want to get the most out of me, and have me enjoy the experience, the bullet points above are a good guideline.


Also published on Medium.