I started throwing founders’ dinners a couple years ago and they’re extremely powerful. Just yesterday, I attended a YEC dinner and there were 30 or so entrepreneurs in one room. We ate really great food in Marina Del Rey, we got to talk with like-minded people, seeing what they’re up to, and seeing how we can help out.
When you’re in a group full of entrepreneurs, whether that’s Young Entrepreneur’s Council or Entrepreneurs’ Organization or another group, you don’t hear much about politics, religion, gossip, or anything that people may normally use to small talk their way through a dinner. Everyone’s just so busy trying to get something done. As a result, these dinners are all about helping each other out and creating lasting relationships.
It’s not even about networking as much as it is about cultivating long-term friendships that can last a lifetime. There are a lot of people in my YEC group who I think are going to be lifelong friends of mine.
Learn More: The Benefits of Joining a Mastermind Group
How to Set Up a Professional Event or Dinner
There are a lot of creative ways you can go about getting the people you really want to talk to and learn from all in one room. The company that helped set up the YEC dinner in Marina Del Rey is called Place Holders. They’ll go out there to the location and set up your meals and everything. I think they’ll get the space booked for you, too.
Other times, the YEC guys will book an Airbnb or something similar. You do have to make sure that it’s a really nice spot. We had a rooftop, a fireplace, and a really long dinner table. There was even a pool.
Often, the hosts will use the space for several days to make their money back. For example, they might invite a bunch of YEC entrepreneurs together for a free dinner. But they actually booked the place for three days, and they’re going to run paid courses or workshops on the other two days.
On the other hand, you could take the more homey route and just invite people to your home. I know YEC people who will cater the food or even just cook the food themselves. They might invite 20 to 30 people to their home for dinner.
Personally, I prefer to keep things intimate because I find that once you have more than eight people, it starts to become a little disorganized. I want to get people to actually know each other better. That’s not saying that more people can’t work; it’s just harder for people to get to know one another on a personal level.
The Best Way to Get People to Interact
I saw something interesting yesterday at the YEC event. We were nearly 75% of the way through, when the hosts suddenly said, “Everyone that’s an extrovert in the room, raise your hand!” And a bunch of people raised their hands. Then they said, “Okay, extroverts move around.”
The extroverts moved around, changed seats, and naturally started to build new relationships that way. Even if you talk to somebody for less than five minutes, you’re able to help that person out. In return, they’ll think of ways to help you out, too. The key is to help without expectations.
The Power of Masterminds
I’ve talked about masterminds in the past. You should always have a checklist of how you want to set things up, because there are always logistics that you need to plan and prepare for when you get a bunch of people into one room.
Also, masterminds aren’t just limited to business owners. Let’s say you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, for example. You can still find other people who are aspiring entrepreneurs and set something up where you cook together and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. For the dinners that I throw, I’ll gladly pay for it myself because, quite frankly, people probably aren’t going to pay to eat my food!
The trade off for me is I’ll throw it near my place, which makes everything much easier for me. Even so, these dinners can typically run anywhere from $500-$800 each time I throw them. You might be thinking, ‘That’s a huge expense.’ It is definitely a big expense, but if you throw these mastermind dinners, connect people, and have no expectations, things are going to come back around to you in the end.
When it comes down to it, the foundation of all meaningful business transactions and referrals is trust and respect. According to Harvard psychologists, people work with you because they like you and respect you. Goodwill always repays goodwill.
I believe in this so firmly that I’ve been running Growth Everywhere for three years and haven’t even tried to monetize it. Neil and I are running Marketing School for free for the same reason. We know that by providing free value and spreading goodwill, we’ll earn back the money we’ve spent tenfold down the road without having to gimmick or hard sell anyone.
Entrepreneurship Can Be a Lonely Game
Here’s the funny thing about being an entrepreneur. You may get into it because of some idea you have about unshackling yourself from the 9-to-5 lifestyle and living the life you want or pursuing your dreams. But ultimately you’ll find that you’re probably a workaholic. Most entrepreneurs are just working all the time with their heads down. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely game.
So to be able to just get together for one night once a month with a group of like-minded people is really powerful. That’s why you join these groups. That’s why I go to conferences and throw events and monthly happy hours, too. If you’re based in the LA area, feel free to reach out to me, find my contact information, tweet at me, whatever. I’ll invite you.
When I map out kind of what I’m going to spend on these events, it’s probably going to be around $25,000 per year. But at the end of the day, I know as long as it feels right, as long as you’re getting good feedback from people, you’re doing the right thing. It will pay off in unexpected ways in the long run.
Sneak Peek: Marketing Reality TV?
Before we finish, I wanted to let you guys know that I’m thinking of doing a 12-episode miniseries where I go into companies and try to figure out what their marketing issues are in real time. We figure out what their growth issues are, find out what their business model is, and then help these companies grow. Our goal is to determine what kind of marketing engine would help that business grow most.
We’re looking at companies that have a great product and that are interested in growing. I’m just trying to gauge the interest level right now, so I’m surveying my email lists. If you are interested, just leave a comment. If we get enough interest in this, I’ll go ahead and spend the resources to make it happen.
This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post: