The Virtuous CIO  

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April 8, 2010 — The Business Dinner, Part 1

In the panoply of literature regarding CIOs and IT management the topic of the business dinner rarely comes up. This is somewhat amazing since more business is conducted in restaurants than any other place with the possible exception of the golf course. On the other hand, nobody says much about how to conduct business on the golf course either.

Considering the way things can go badly awry during a business dinner, it seems appropriate that we examine this topic today. Traditionally, American business people have conducted extensive business during golf games. I have recently taken up golf, but do not yet play well. I have no such problem with my eating. Perhaps it is a bad habit of mine, but I can accomplish more business around the dinner table than almost anywhere else. So let's examine why this might be so for you as well.

Like anything else done well, a successful business dinner requires planning. The dinner may be a formal event with printed invitations and a carefully designed agenda. It also may be a spur of the moment thing, the "let's go get a bite to eat" kind of thing. Either way you should know exactly what you are trying to achieve at the meal. Ask yourself who should be invited to these meals, or otherwise who is doing the inviting. If you are invited, you should assume that your host or hostess is also looking to achieve something and you should take the time to determine what that goal is.

Let's assume you are the host or hostess. The choice of restaurants is important. Always select a place where you have had previous experience. Experimenting with new eateries can be a strategic mistake if you are entertaining an important guest. Pay attention to the pricing on the restaurant menu. It is usually wise to select a slightly upscale venue with a decent variety of entrées. Most of the time you should avoid the high end restaurants. There is a recent trend among vendors to send out invitations for luncheon meetings at these places as a way to flush a covey of hungry CIOs, who are normally adept at hiding behind their administrative assistants. I would personally think twice about being associated with such tactics.

It's a good idea to select a restaurant with broad appeal. If you are the host you must always give every consideration to your guests. If they are from a different cultural ethos, take the time to research their background so as to avoid any of the egregious faux pas which can strain business relationships. In fact, your guests will take note of your special care in this regard, and will raise their estimation of you. This will do no harm to the business relationship.

We will continue this discussion next week.