Dan Hough

I am not a business card jar

Published 24 June 2012 in London, UK

Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s a time and a place for offering your business card. Seconds after meeting someone is not that time.

I was at a Startup Weekend pitch training session: a chance to get your pitch critiqued by other potential founders, having a great conversation with a man eager to leave his 9-to-5 corporate job to go out on his own. We were discussing each others’ ideas and coming up with some great stuff. Out of nowhere, a couple of guys turn up from a startup based in the same building. Let’s call them Clive and Percy.

One of them, Clive, seems pretty nice, he tells us all about the company and asks us about why we’re there and what we hope to achieve. His company has been around for a few weeks and they’re really looking forward to launching their product. He then moves on to talk to some other people, so my new friend and I continue our conversation. But then Percy turns up and starts listening in on our conversation, so we introduce ourselves and tell him what we do.

I see this interruption as a good opportunity to say my goodbyes, as I have other plans. I bid my conversation partner adieu and ask for his card so we can keep in touch (he had some great thoughts about my pitch - more about this in a later blog post). Just as I’m leaving though, Percy tells me to wait, pulls out his card and hands it to me.

“Thanks,” say I, and I shake their hands and head off on my way.

For all you Percys out there: Don’t feel obliged to give me your business card just because some other guy has. If we haven’t exchanged any meaningful words, learned anything about each other or shared any ideas, then it’s an empty gesture and it makes you seem arrogant.

h3. What I would suggest

Spend some quality time with somebody else, find out what they could do for you and what you could do for them and then exchange cards. Who am I to you, Percy? Just some guy you found out the job title from, shook hands with and then saw go through the door marked ‘EXIT.’

Don’t treat people like you treat that little jar in your favourite bar full of business cards. You’re not getting anything out of it, and neither are they.

Heckle me on Twitter @basicallydan.