Have you ever really thought about the implications of your answer to this question? Understanding your answer signals how you think as a businessman. Are you still uncomfortable at that moment when the waiter asks "one check or two"? If you continue to wonder what you should do then this is your first sign that you are a rookie business lunch eater.
Implied with this simple, innocuous question is an underlying understanding of the roles each one of you is playing at lunch. (By the way, the same goes for breakfast of dinner or frosty beverages.)
My mentor Bart Faber taught me many things but I remember the first one he laid on me when he hired me from MapQuest to run a $25M venture fund for him. He asked me, "Chris, do you know the Golden Rule?" I thought for a second, and answered, "Sure, do unto others as you want others to do unto you".
This was the wrong answer for raging capitalist Bart. He went on to explain that the Golden Rule in business is "he who owns the gold, rules". Now don't get all socialist on me here. His intention was much deeper than that.
I think about this about every day and use the implications of this rule to dictate a lot of my behavior, the way I dress and the tone and direction of my business meetings.
In every business relationship there is a seller and a buyer. Stop and think about this for a second. Review the last few meetings you had. This is simple but profound. Are you a buyer or a seller? The first thing you need to fully understand is which one are you? In Bart's world the question is, do you have the gold and setting the rules for the meeting or do you not and you are following the lead.
Knowing your role beforehand cuts through wasted time and effort and can optimize the goals for each player.
It may seem simple but there are only three lunch options:
- You buy lunch,
- They buy lunch, or
- You split the check.
If you are selling, you buy lunch. If they are selling, they should buy lunch. If there is some question about who is selling and who is buying then split the check. But more importantly ask yourself if you knew your role and your lunch partner understood their role. A split check may also be a sign that you re both not in sync of what the goals of the meeting are.