In business dealings, many of us were trained to avoid confusing relationships with clients or partners. Everyone has heard, “Don’t mix business with pleasure.” But, when taken as an unbreakable rule, might just take away a valuable tool for building trust and sealing a deal. We believe that this rule is often taken too broadly. For example, when two people shoot a round of golf at the invitation of one of them, it is hard to misconstrue what the reason for the outing is. Another would be sailing. There’s nothing in this extracurricular activity that could cloud motivations.
Where “keeping it strictly business” works well is any time there is a possibility of creating a conflict of interest or any activity where romance could intrude. Extended outings with just two people with no other participants close by might seem suspicious. Overly familiar or gushy communications (email, chat, etc.) can make dividing business and personal relationships difficult. This is especially true regarding contracts, deals, or employment related conversations. How hard will it be to have frank discussions?
One key factor is to schedule outside activities in more public venues that still offer an opportunity for private, professional conversation. Here are three activities that allow private conversation without giving the appearance of ulterior motives.
For shooting enthusiasts, an afternoon of clays or rifle target shooting works well. Wing shooters are always wanting to stay sharp, especially as the fall creeps up. Have a look at clay ranges that have custom trails with varying stations. Rifle target shooting is a good choice and shooting at metal targets at distance is more challenging. These kinds of vigorous events bring a heightened sense of reality to the conversation and obviously offer ample social room to speak frankly about business without being heard.
This kind of outing is very dependent on weather so have a backup plan. Something like…
Host a Fine Music Event
Organize a concert right in your home or back yard. If you happen to have a large space, so much the better but it really isn’t necessary. A covered area outside is great too but also optional. Lean toward solo acts up to four or five performers. Who you program is up to you. There is a lot to choose from, so get great musicians known to be professional and reliable. If conditions permit, amplified bands can be great but don’t get so enthusiastic that the local gendarme comes knocking at your door. If you think elegant is the way to go, a string quartet or piano trio (provided that you have a good piano handy) is hard to beat.
Combined with a light meal, an afternoon music event can be very stimulating. Find out what genres your guest likes and program accordingly. You will have the opportunity to speak before or after the show. Regarding your guest list: a good mix of people including one or two of your guest’s colleagues is perfect for balancing the new and the familiar. Go for dress casual as full on formal events can come off as stuffy and pretentious.
Outdoor day trips
If you and your guest are in good shape, consider medium intensity hikes or horseback riding. You can work into an already established group or invite colleagues. This is a very specific activity and is dependent on geography, some experience in the case of horseback riding and weather so plan carefully.
One of the benefits of getting the blood pumping is that our minds get back to the correct pace and you can get more accomplished. Most active outdoor activities apply here but day trips are more conducive to getting a good workout in and then getting down to business over a nice meal.
You have many options for professionally mixing business with pleasure. A key component when choosing an alternative way of entertaining a guest is being alone enough to conduct productive business talks and being engaged by the activity to allow some relaxation. The key concept here is to maintain professionalism.