Jan 8, 2011

Are you a business bore? It's not better for business to be boring!

I have a friend who I call only if I have at least 30 minutes. Every conversation (after ''How are you'') turns straight to his (successful) business. Not that I get bored, because he shares visions, plans, anecdotes from all over the world, even financial data with me and there is a lot I wish I could do as well; it's just difficult to stop him talking when I eventually need to leave. And no, he is not ugly, single or desperate. It's just that his business is his life and probably something he thinks about all the time.

Without that focus and dedication he probably would not be able to build a business so successful and support 4 members of the family.


Maybe it is more common for us business owners, entrepreneurs or freelance workers to always think about what we are doing, and there are usually so many aspects of business to think about than just our core expertise. There is a lot on your mind and that takes a big part of your conversation with others. I am not sure how boring it is to them, but I admit catching myself still talking, 20 minutes after someone at the other end of the table asked ''what I've been up to recently.''

Therefore, I must be a business bore sometimes. I like business, I love figuring ways to build it, find it, improve it, learn, test and discussing it with others. But I do get bored to death (after a while) on forums or discussion groups with other management or business consultants/coaches or get annoyed with all who tweet all day long about leadership, teams, excellence, strategy etc.
I wonder sometimes if that is all experts should do. But it bores me. So I better think of all others who do not really want to listen about my business or read smart quotes all the time, every time.

I need to go watch/talk tennis, football, read fiction, dance at a party, or talk about anything else that is not (my) business.

I even managed to create solid business relationships while talking or doing other things, or hanging out on forums or blogs that did not have anything to do with business. Did not try golf although years ago I heard more business deals were done on a golf court than in boardrooms.


There was a case study (we had in business school in Switzerland) from which I only remember entrepreneur selling his company ( for a lot of money of course) who then took a year off to go surfing to some exotic destination. Surprise, surprise, he ended up meeting another dude entrepreneur there, and creating another even more successful business with him.

How does that make you feel? I know I envied them, and wondered is it karma or is it luck or is it that some people just attract and generate business and money at the beach/date/nightclub while others sit/slave days and nights in the office talking and thinking business all the time and boring others in the process? These were my darkest thought and I know they are exaggerated.

Not only business owners or entrepreneurs are obsessed by (their) business. There are people who talk business all the time even when employed (working for others) and even if they are not in top management. They think and talk mostly about their work during family lunches/on weekends, at parties or social gatherings. ''I work 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.'' said another friend (Director of Engineering Services in a large international company) when asked about his working hours.

There are also employees leaving their jobs at 5 p.m. and not remembering work until the alarm goes off the next morning. I don't think they are necessarily more interesting. While I was working in multinationals or start-ups around the world I got to learn about various interests of my colleagues from soccer to sailing or photography, and sometimes they talked their ''hobby'' ALL the time. Sure, they can be boring too.

I just find I need some balance between business and other interests and you probably feel the same, so I don't want to bore you, although clearly there is no formula that works equally well for all of us.


I always remember the interview with the investment guru and legend Julian Robertson, Founder of hedge fund Tiger Management (during his active years he was considered to be a ''wizard of Wall street''). He described how he was a business bore and managed to turn it around. The best of all - that helped him improve his business. Here is the part of it:

''My sister Wyndham [who later became an assistant managing editor at Fortune] called me one night after we'd been to a cocktail party in the early 1960s and said, "You're becoming a business bore. No one is interested in talking all night long about stocks. Quit being a business bore." After trying to refute her, I realized she was right. So I stopped being a business bore. I found other topics to discuss. And I found that when I ceased being a business bore -- and quit pushing my views about the market on everyone -- that people came to be more interested in any advice that I might have to give. At the time I was a broker starting out, and it helped me acquire clients.''

Are you a business bore sometimes, or do you know someone who is? How does that make you feel? Has pursuing other interests (out of work) ever help you get hired, or get a business deal? Do you have any recommendations or stories you want to share? Please do. It will not be boring at all, we can get an idea or just enjoy hearing about it.

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