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Mind Your Business: Under the Influence


I've been hearing a lot about "influencers" lately. Those are the trendy, ahead-of-the- curve types who persuade the rest of us to try new things, buy new products and generally get us to crawl out from under our rocks long enough to see what's happening in the world.

Influencers , the thinking goes, are the people you want to associate yourself with because they'll help you spread the word about your business. There's another influencer I've also been thinking about lately — alcohol. As in, under the influence of.  While I'm generally of the mind that business dealings and drinking do not mix, lately I've been thinking we could all stand to go a little more "Mad Men" in our drinking habits.

Loosen up

Anyone who's seen their boss in a conga line at the company holiday party after a few too many Cosmos knows that mixing alcohol and business can translate into a regrettable evening. But, if you've ever had a business meeting over a glass of wine, you also know that a drink or two can be just the social lubricant needed to grease the wheels of business success.

One reason is that we let our guard down just a bit after a drink. Letting your co-workers or prospective clients see that you're not the uptight, singularly focused workaholic you appear to be in the office can give you a lot more credibility as a regular guy or gal.

If, after a drink, you let yourself talk about something else besides work — your family, your favorite books, your Smurf collection — you might come across as a little more human. People want to do business with people they can relate to. Being all work and no personality makes it hard for people to know whom they're really dealing with.

Trust me

Another thing that happens after a drink is that you tend to become more yourself. Too many drinks and you become too much of yourself (or show too much of it, in some cases), but, after just one or two, you're more likely to let your real feelings show. Provided you don't go all Mel Gibson on anybody, this can be very good for business.

That's because so much of business is based on personal relationships. Ask any sales person and they'll tell you that knowing someone, trusting someone, or remembering that you have something in common with someone are often the catalysts for making a business decision.

But, first your clients or customers have to get to know you. Taking the time to sit down, chat and have a drink lets them get to know you as a person and not just as a one-dimensional shill. When it comes time to make a decision on whom to work with, they'll be more likely to go with a person with whom they can connect.

Whadda ya know?

There's a saying, "You don't know what you don't know." Boy, ain't that the truth. It's often the case that after a drink with a person from another department at your company or with a client or a prospective customer, you find out all sorts of things you didn't even know you were missing.

Maybe it's a project you want to get involved with or maybe it's something the company is working on that you can help with. If you hadn't taken the time to sit down (or stand around the bar) and socialize, you would never have known what you were missing.

Often, work relationships focus so much on the work that we forget that the relationship part is what ultimately matters. And, relationships are often most successfully cemented over an after-hours aperitif.

So, the next time your spouse gripes about your gimlet or blanches at your Budweiser, I suggest you remind them that it's just business.


Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.