The other day, I saw an article that made my jaw drop — and reminded me (once again) why we do what we do.

Remember the BP oil spill in the Gulf? Yes, it was a while ago … but the region is still feeling the after effects, and not just environmentally. But for BP, it sure has been nice to have smart tax people in their corner.

You see, from their $20.8 billion settlement, BP was able to gain a $15.3 billion tax writeoff. That’s pretty incredible, considering it all.

As seemingly shocking as this may be, it’s pretty common for corporations. Regardless of how we all feel about this development, what is plain is that there really are separate tax codes — one for the “connected” and powerful … and another for those who don’t have people like that in their corner. Which brings me to how this matters for you:

We have a passion for bringing the same kind of dogged intensity and creativity that high-priced corporate tax professionals bring to large corporations for their tax work — to regular families like you.

And this week, as we’ve been wrapping up a bunch of extension returns, I’m glad to say that we’ve been able to help a lot of families keep far more in their pocket than if they had used the “drag and drop” solutions, or one of those tax prep boiler rooms.

And we’re grateful for your trust.

Now, I’ve had to turn down a few lunch appointments this week simply because of all the work we’ve been doing … but it sparked some thinking for me, about this whole practice of business lunches — and how to do them right.

I had someone suggest this piece of advice to me early in my career, and it was good advice. Heck, it’s good advice for me NOW (and it was useful for me to put the article together, to clarify my mind on it all).

Simply put, I believe that this method is the BEST way to advance in a career, as a parent, or any other venture you’d like to pursue: ask someone who has gone ahead of you.

Fred Greene’s 5 Tips for Successful Business Lunches
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

For those of you in the early stages in your career, this article might be worth more than many of the classes you took in college — if you follow my advice.

And, for those of you who are further along in your career … frankly, the advice still applies. I can’t tell you how many business lunches (or coffees) I’ve been to with ill-prepared, meandering partners. And while some of the specifics of your questions might change, from the below, and from person to person, and over the years … there simply isn’t a better way to build relationships with someone who is busy and successful than what I suggest below. After all … they gotta eat!

1. Go somewhere easy — and YOU pay.
Nobody has time to meet you for a fancy dinner in the middle of a busy work day. A cup of coffee works because you pay in advance. You don’t want that awkward moment where you both wait for the bill to come, or to have the server interrupt you a dozen times.

And yes, you might be young and poor-ish. But if you’ve chosen your lunch partner properly, it’s simply good manners to ante up the $20-$30 (or less) to pay for their meal. This signals your valuing of their time, and it will build up good will.

2. Ask questions the entire time.
You convened the meal — so it is your turn to ask the questions, pick this person’s brain, and get as much feedback as you possibly can on your topic. I highly suggest that you come loaded with questions, ready to fire out.

Oh and there’s one thing about questions that you need to know…

3. Ask good questions.
Please don’t ask for their “best tips or advice”. That’s horribly lame and they won’t know where to start. So make it a rule to not ask general questions, because you’ll simply get vague responses that won’t help you much.

So what are some good questions?
Well, that of course, does depend on your lunch mate, and your own goals for the time. But, for general-purpose networking, and learning the stories behind someone’s success, here are some good places to start:

* What did you do right after high school? What did you do after college? [You want to see what a successful person has done right after completing their studies. This will usually surprise you.]

* What does an average day look like in your life? I wonder if there’s time for video games?

* Who else do you work with? [This way, you can find out the other players involved in making their team work.]

* What would you do if…? [Then you present a specific scenario — hopefully one that you’re experiencing yourself.]

4. Don’t talk about yourself, unless asked directly.
Or, as The Rock used to say: “Know your role and shut your mouth.” This is your time to be all ears and become a sponge for information. Don’t give your input on every single comment.

5. Do some research.
Don’t walk in confused or clueless about what this person is all about. It’s important that you take some time to do your research and figure out exactly what this person has been working on. This will score you some bonus points. It pays to be interested. People want to know that their work is being taken seriously.

I do hope this will save you some embarrassment, and, even, open some doors for you that will take your career to the next level. Feel free to forward along, of course!

We thrive based on your referrals, and are truly grateful for them. Thanks again.

Feel very free to share this article with a Westfield NJ business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance — or simply send them our way?While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for Westfield NJ families and business owners. And we always make room for referrals from trusted sources like you.

Warmly,

Fred Greene
(908) 789-8407

Abundant Wealth Planning, LLC