When I was a young lad growing up for a brief time in Pontiac, Michigan back in the mid to late seventies, I began my education in the art of networking and the power of beer.
We lived in a tiny bungalow on Fourth Street, a brisk walk from the local General Motors plant, and a bike ride from my elementary school. The street was lined with rows of equally small bungalows. Young families, as well as the elderly occupied these homes. Everyone knew each other. It was a time of neighborhood block parties, early morning rumbles of Big Wheels, and backyard fist fights followed by a cold pop under a shaded tree.
My father was young. He was in his late twenties and a police officer for Keego Harbor, a lake community only a short drive from our front door. On weeknights he would play softball, talk loud, and puff out his chest for the world to see. What I was witnessing was the last of his breed; that baby-boomer generation of men that personified masculinity and bravado that so few these days possess. One of those masculine traits was the ability to build whatever it was that they wanted to build.
Back then our bungalow needed a front porch. It was built in a few days with the help of his brothers and friends. It is, to this day, half concrete and empty Pabts Blue Ribbon cans. This, of course, was back in the day when PBR was not the chic beer it is today. It was cheap and went down fast. It’s amazing how a company can reinvent their product for a new generation of naive knuckleheads. Note: if you drink PBR, you’re paying too much.
My father managed to build that front porch by providing two essential things: material and beer. When labor costs are only cases of cheap beer, one can build anything, get anything, and pretty much do anything.
Years later, after my sister and I had moved on to pursue our own lives, my father built a house in Florida. Again, through the mighty persuasion of beer, he would convince working construction crews, heavy machine operators, and laborers to come over to his property after work and help move dirt, build walls, lay concrete, and hammer shingles. The cost of labor and the use of bulldozers, backhoes, and cranes, was a mere fraction of normal price. All it costed him was time and beer. This time, it was Natural Light. Note: twenty years from now, a new generation of naive knuckleheads will overpay for Natural Light.
Today, my father still gets things done with beer. I recently returned from Tennessee where my father is building a cabin. It’s their retirement home. They bought a mountain north of Knoxville and plan on buying a cow, a mule, and a goat. My dad will grow a bushy beard and my mother will knit and bake pies. They’ll become mountain people that roll into town only for supplies and the occasional doctor’s appointment. Soon, rumors about Old Man Allison will start milling about town and it will be like catching a glimpse of Sasquatch when they see him. He’s already relishing the thought.
Anyway, although his labor costs have risen since the early days, he still manages to call in a favor now and then with a six pack of Miller High Life or borrow a tool with the same. The power of beer is unmatched. This is networking at its finest.
So, what are the rules of networking with beer? They are simple and I’ll list them below. If one is to use beer for networking purposes, it is very important to follow these rules. Wavering from them can be detrimental to the desired end result. In other words: pay attention.
Beer Networking 101
- Know your audience. Whether you are building a porch or trying to land that big corporate client, it is important to know your drinking partners. If you show up with a six pack of an imported beer with a bunch of blue collar men, you’re busted and might suffer a backlash. The same goes with a micro brewery beer. However, the opposite is true with middle management types or people that drive a BMW. Order a round of Bud Lights and the fix is in. You’re an outsider and climbing the wall you just raised will prove difficult. Know your audience!
- Don’t over do it. The idea of networking with beer is not to dump a semi-truck load of beer that the Bandit had just helped haul in with the aid of his truck driving pal the Snowman. Breaking the bank on beer is never a good idea no matter what, but going in the red while networking definitely defeats the purpose. Proper beer networking should never require more than two cases of God’s milk and honey. If you’re unsure, scout out the rate of consumption with a preliminary powwow, but don’t show up empty handed. A six pack is all that is needed for scouting missions.
- Drink less than your buddy. This is a simple rule. If you drink more, you might forget the reason behind your visit. Keep your wits about you. Do not match beer for beer while networking. Save that for when after the project is done. Call it a celebration. Getting bloated on suds is putting the cart before the horse. Additionally, a blurry-eyed pal may be more forthcoming with whatever favor you are requesting. Word of warning: this may not work on mean drunks. To avoid a mean drunk, fall back on rule one and two.
That’s it. Only three simple rules. Follow them and be amazed at the outcome. In the end, networking is about relationships and building relationships can come in many different forms. Beer, unfortunately, isn’t a necessity… for some. If you’re not a beer drinker then try food, swapping favors or tools, or just simply asking for free help. Remember, the worst thing that could happen is that you hear the word “No”. In that case, you know who to add to your enemy list.
I may have said too much.