Don’t Work With Your Mouth Full

“Never eat more than you can lift.” – Miss Piggy

As we said in Message #444 (“Don’t Befriend Your Business Contacts”), business and friendship don’t easily go together. The same is true of business and food.

If you value your health above all (and you probably should), you’ll want to eat your meals in tranquility. Eat light. Listen to music. Forget about work for a few moments.

There was a time when all my meals were business meals. Breakfasts and lunches were frantic working sessions with fellow workers. Dinners were planning sessions with partners or business-building conversations with colleagues. I was talking with my mouth full three times a day. And, no, it wasn’t pretty.

Twenty pounds too heavy, I suffered from migraine headaches and ulcers. For years, I never tasted my food. Gradually, I acquired allergic reactions to certain foods — all the good ones, of course. It was miserable.

Nowadays, I try to keep my business meetings and my meals away from each other. And I recommend that you do the same.

But every so often, you won’t be able to avoid it. In such cases, I recommend you do what I try to do. (All my ideas in this area come from the ever-wise KFF, who has always understood what I’ve only recently discovered: Meals are not about eating but socializing — and their purpose is not to consume the maximum amount of food in the least amount of time but rather to cultivate valued relationships.)

For those unavoidable business meals, I pass along these suggestions:

1. Prepare the venue. If the meal is worth having at all, it’s worth preparing for. If it’s your choice, select the right restaurant, find out in advance the preferences of your guest, speak to the maitre d’ so that you get the right table, waiter, etc.

2. Prepare for the business conversation. Figure out what you want to get from the meeting. Think about the best way to get it. Bring what you need to present your points. Be prepared to change your plans if your guest would rather not discuss business while eating.

3. Prepare for the social conversation. Some portion of the meal is usually devoted to a friendly chat. Don’t waste that time talking about yourself. Instead, ask questions about your guest’s family, hobbies, interests, and projects. Be interested, complimentary.

4. Eat as if you went to finishing school. I tend to eat like Attila the Hun. I tell myself that all entrepreneurs eat that way. Of course, that can’t be true. If it were, business meals would be illegal, not deductible.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]