Tuesday, 9 November 2010
I also spend some time in coffee shops. Part of the joy of working for myself is that I can decide that it's coffee time and I can choose where I sit. Very often, as I am sitting there calmly watching the world go by, I can hear other groups of business people having their meetings. I get to hear all sorts of information - about firms, about people and particularly about relationships. I hear an awful lot about people's feelings for their clients, colleagues, their boss and their subordinates.
Entertaining as this can be, in what I admit is a somewhat voyeuristic sort of way, it can be a little shocking that professional people are willing to have such private conversations in such public places. It's not that I'm deliberately listening out for information (honestly) but sometimes it can be difficult not to hear. I've picked up a great deal of information about a couple of local law firms, a consultancy (and it's a very good thing I'm not one of their clients, given how they talk about them) and a couple of large IT firms.
No-one would dream of standing in the street and shouting out insults about their clients - so why do otherwise sensible business people think that a public coffee shop is a good place to have a sensitive meeting?
I'm not suggesting that you should never use a coffee shop - merely that you remain aware all the time that you are in a public place. Be discrete. Have your most sensitive meetings somewhere else. Most of all - please be aware of your surroundings and think before you speak. Perhaps, too, don't say bad things about your clients in a situation where there is any possibility of them, or their friends, listening.