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One for the business?

“Let’s grab a drink as we discuss that business deal,” is a phrase familiar with many men. But where does this leave those who can’t step in a bar for religious, health or other reasons?

As an app developer who was trying to start up a company, Vincent Ireri worked hard to establish business connections with the big fish in the industry.

But to do so, he needed to also work hard to earn his reputation as a dependable drinking buddy. “I had to identify a pub where business people hanged out and basically established a favourite spot.

I was always at the bar everyday, with a beer at hand,” says Ireri. Before making this decision, he had tried to set up meetings in restaurants and other places, but the potential business partners would not open up.

They would instead suggest a drink later in the evening. Much to Ireri’s experience, a lot of business rituals continue to revolve around alcohol; “Let’s grab a drink together,” “You should grab a drink with my friend so and so, he will tell you the down low to this job,” among others. Which is all fine and dandy except for the drinking bit…why the bar?

Whether it’s courting a client, sketching out a deal or simply proving you are a team player, gulping a round of beers is arguably more vital to many jobs than nailing a round of golf.

Likewise, at the end of the day, almost every business conference is the same. Attendees descend on a location for networking and business deals; And this location is none other than the hotel bar, dubbed cocktail party. Computer geek Gadwel Kariuki, managing director of a branding firm in Nairobi does not drink, but he goes to the bar to meet others.

He thinks to get ahead in business, it is all about knowing the bars where you are most likely to rub shoulders with the movers and shakers in your industry.

So, if you are looking for a casual place to break the ice for a business meeting or networking session, you will want to find out where the people you want to meet unwind or how they like to relax after work and most times his meetings have been in a bar. He says the upside of bar meetings is that one will loosen up and start talking.

It is easy to get emotional and, therefore, an opportunity to forge strong emotional bonds quickly. Dennis Kerich, an upcoming business man agrees. He says going to the bar often has little to do with the drink.

“I go to the bar everyday, but mainly to meet prospective business partners, listen to other people business experiences and opportunities. It is a place where you get to meet people of all walks of life unlike organised social events,” he says.

His favourite joint is Buffet Park Tamasha in Hurlingham, Nairobi. For professionals who abstain from alcohol for health, religion, recovery or simple preference, Kerich intimates that it can be harder to get ahead.

“You are expected to drink and there is a little suspicion if you say you don’t do it,” he reveals. On the flip side, Waweru Wainaina, chairman, Presbyterian Church Men’s Fellowship, (PCMF) Bahati Martyrs Church, says non-drinkers can socialise without setting foot in a bar.

Having held hundreds of men fellowships every month and sometimes overnight trips out of town, Wainaina says members are able to socialise over a cup of tea and establish powerful connections.

“These groups provide a healthier environment for men to not only mingle with prospective partners and empower them to run their business ethically, but also to help with their overall wellbeing health wise and spiritually,” says Wainaina.

PCEA Bahati Martyrs Parish moderator, Reverend Albert Karanja agrees. Our church holds monthly meetings with men with a purpose of helping them develop professional relationships, learn about their finances, their health, among other things, which are important in a man’s world.

“We believe that business leads will evolve naturally from these relationships without having to look for such opportunities in a bar,” he notes. Japheth Karimi, who runs a car auctioning firm says that apart from the bar and church organised groups, there are myriad places for men to network and provide a good environment for cutting business deals, such as the rotary club, associations, the gym, arts, neighbourhood groups, conferences, retreats, alumni events and trade shows.

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