My wife, a 5th grade school teacher, taught me about Mrs. Fine a number of years ago. There are always a number of kids in her class that, when asked how they are, always say “fine.” It does not matter the day, week or month or if they just had an incredible day. It’s always the same… “fine.”
Jump forward to any business networking, cocktail party or other event and, when the usual “how’s business” question is asked, think about how often the answer is “fine” or something that is just as meaningless. If you tell yourself that business is “fine” long enough, you can be sure it will stay that way. Forever.
Rarely is anything just fine and it is never always fine. Business is good, bad, difficult, challenging, rewarding and amazing. And if you want the trend to move heavily towards amazing then fine is not your friend. To change that you need to be willing to tell that person why you think business is the way it is and what would change it for the better or make it even better than it may be.
Every networking book talks about what you are supposed to say and do when you meet a potential prospect. It is always about a strategy related to you extracting something from someone else. Maybe a deeper connection, a chance to pitch your wares or a way to see how you can help them. But nobody talks about what YOU can do when approached by that eager networker who asks “How’s business?”
If you want to escape the clutches of Mrs. Fine you are going to need to tell the truth about how your business really is. That is the only way anybody that asks about it can learn the right information so they can actually become someone that can help you.
“Fine, but I really would like to find a way to have a few more clients that ___________________.” or “They are going well, and if we can launch this new product we are working on things will be great.” are totally different answers.
More importantly, in these extraordinarily difficult times, “Business is very rough right now. I need to find a way to figure out what makes my company unique and get my costs down. And fast.” is a response that allows people to relate to you as a person. And business is personal. It is human. Fine is the answer a robot would give.
Ironically, answering with that level of honesty allows the person asking you to feel free to open up and be honest with you in return. The typical facade of these interactions gets destroyed. And that is the best possible outcome. Getting their business card is not.
So… how’s business?