Recently I’ve witnessed and heard of numerous instances of accountants hesitating to pick up the check—at a coffee shop—or rushing to pay their own tab at the deli, before their guests even put their order in! Accountants need to know the difference between being frugal and being cheap, especially in networking situations.
Let’s start with a quick quiz: Which of these is more in line with your profession as an accountant?
A. Frugal (i.e., responsible)
B. Cheap (i.e., cutting corners)
The answer is A. This is important because each signifies something very different about who you are and brings on some related assumptions about the type of work you produce.
Now, "frugal" or "cheap" are not your only choices in life and networking. There are many great reasons to be generous and even extravagant. Much of it boils down to the brand you are trying to build and the budget you are willing to spend to achieve that brand. Are you a "Coffee at IHOP" brand or a "Dinner at French Restaurant" brand? Know before you go.
The 3 Laws of Not Looking Cheap
- Host coffee, lunch and other events at a place where you are comfortable picking up the tab, even if your guest orders the most expensive items on the menu.
- Pick up the check without hesitation. Tell yourself in advance that you will be putting your card down, and mentally practice it. This will improve your reaction time.
- Graciously accept someone else’s offer to pick up the tab, but only in the following scenarios: They invited you and have grabbed the check swiftly, or your contact is actually about to physically harm you if say “no, allow me!” one more time.
The Dining FAQ List
A. What if they invited me and they don’t pick up the check?
See #2 above.
B. Even if it’s at a really expensive restaurant?
C. What if it’s not an official “work lunch” and I have to pay out of my own pocket?
See #2 above. Your generosity will be more than paid back in the future.
D. Should I reach for my wallet and offer to pay if I was invited as a guest?
You don’t have to, but if it would make you feel better and seems like the right thing to do, you can offer. But don’t do it if you don’t really mean it, and do it with confident gestures and voice.
E. What if I have a coupon for buy-one get-one-free lunch entrees?
Please don’t. Save it for your friends or family, who love you for your thrifty ways.
Give your network the gift of feeling treated when you’re out with them. It’s a great, and very affordable, way to build and strengthen your network.