A Conversation with Coffee Lunch Coffee author Alana Muller

Alana Muler Coffee Lunch Coffee

Have problems with networking? Alana Muller’s new book: “Coffee Lunch Coffee: A Practical Field Guide for Master Networking” is the perfect solution to solve your problems. (Photo courtesy of Alana Muller)

By: Jacob Elyachar

Recently, I introduced you to author Alana Muller in my first installment of the 5 Questions series.

Alana is an impeccable master of networking and has shared her strategies for networking success in her debut book: Coffee Lunch Coffee: A Practical Field Guide for Master Networking.

 I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Alana for an in-depth interview at one of her favorite networking locations in Overland Park, Kansas, and we discussed her research process for Coffee Lunch Coffee and the next phase of the Coffee Lunch Coffee franchise.

Jacob Elyachar: What were your early strategies that influenced your book?

Alana Muller: I did not set out to write a book.  I started networking because I realized that in order to build my career, I needed to build an external network.   For me, it is good to have a structure for my day.    I scheduled my networking meetings so I would have one in the morning, a meeting at midday and another in the afternoon.

I called it “Coffee, Lunch, Coffee” and I first I did it to be kind of funny.  But, then I realized that the structure of the networking process was actually working!  I was getting so many meetings.  I almost had 15 meetings per week! In fact, some weeks I had more meetings and it was a wonderful way to hold myself accountable to my schedule, my structure and to meet with the people I needed to network with.

People were noticing that I was getting a lot of networking contacts and building my name in the community.    In addition, some people were starting to mention me as a great networking contact, which is very humbling and gratifying.   Everyone was asking me about my process and wanted to know what the “secret sauce” in meeting so many people.  I started writing down an outline and then they started to suggest that I should write it in more detail.

In November 2011, I wrote it into a blog and started Coffee Lunch Coffee.  I really thought it that would be as far as it would go, and I thought that no one would read my blog.   People started reading it and enough of my readers stated that they wanted it in a book form so that they could take it with them, write in the margins and take notes.   I decided in February 2012 that I would curate my blog posts and turn them into a book.

JE: Let’s talk about the research process.  How did you go about that?

AM: It’s not very scientific! I call it my primary research and it is really my own experiences with networking and others experiences with networking.   One of the best parts about networking is hearing other people’s stories that I can compare and contrast to my own, and then, I can share those lessons with the Coffee Lunch Coffee community (CLC).   The research is a learn-by-doing methodology.  There is not a lot of digging in books and sending out surveys.  It was basically about connecting with others.

JE: How did you organize the book version of Coffee Lunch Coffee?

AM: I talked with my editor about it and we started thinking: “What are the components that somebody would need in order to successfully engage in this process?”   We talked about the building blocks and the tools that people need, which is our whole section on prep work.  How do you prepare yourself for this activity that you are about to engage in?

There were a surprising number of steps that range from everything from “knowing who you want to reach out to” and “what you are going to talk about” to “how you will contact them.”   Another important part of prep work is having your own information in order (ex: business card, resume and an updated LinkedIn profile) and that is one of the biggest chunks of the book, which is readying this person for this eventuality.   As you look through the book, it follows a natural progression of prep work, determining where you will meet and mastering the networking process.

JE: As readers get into the book, they will find black boxes that contain inspirational messages and essays.  Why are these important to the readers?

AM:  In a very presumptuous way, I call myself a “Master Networker” in the book but I am still learning every single day.  I think that more minds are better than just my mind and bringing in other experts, who I deem to be outstanding networkers, master networkers in their own right.    I really rely on them and I think that really bolsters their creditability of my work.

If there are other people who are so great at networking and have ideas that are sometimes better than my own, I want to share that with the community.  I amassed a collection of quotations, stories and experiences from other people who are active in the networking process.

JE: Within the book, you lay out certain fill in the blank activities for readers to use.  How did you come up with these activities?

AM:   I talked with my editor at length about it and we talked about what would be useful to a person going to engage in this process and be successful.   There are exercises peppered throughout the book and when I want people to “write in the margins,” I really do mean it.   I want people to dig into the content of the material.

What is useful about it is not just the book itself, it truly becomes a personal guide to the reader that shepherds them along in the process.

The first four exercises, for example, are always the ones that I recommend to a person just getting started in networking.  The first exercise will help you identify: “Who it is that you already know and who would you like to reconnect with.”  The second exercise involves: “making a list of people that you do not know but want to get to know.”  The third activity is making a list of companies that you want to get to know.   What I mean by companies, it could be potential employers, sale prospects or volunteer opportunities.   The fourth list is something very special and it is to make a list of values of what I call: “the Non-negociables.”   While I engage in the networking process, these are things that I am not willing to give up because they are important to me.

JE: What were some of the easier chapters to write?

AM: Prep work was pretty obvious for me to write.  I basically used my own process for the chapter and I made some tweaks because there were some mistakes that I made going through this.  But there were things I did not want the reader to forget about and that was something that was obvious.

The other chapter that was easy to write was where you should go to network.   Again, I used my own experiences, but I wanted to make it not just for my local community but global in nature.   For example, global coffeehouses and places to go for lunch.  But it does get a little bit personal because we talk about specific mom-and-pop places that I like to go to connect with people.

JE: Were there any difficult chapters to write?

AM:  The most difficult chapter that I wrote was the introduction.  I wrote and rewrote it three times because I could not strike the right tone.   I did not want the introduction to feel robotic or obvious, when someone picked up the book.  I really wanted to open myself up.   I want people to hear my voice in the book and I think that they do, but it took me a while to document the introduction in a way that would engage the reader in a way that was not robotic or left people feeling flat.

JE: Do you have any plans to make Coffee Lunch Coffee more accessible for readers outside of Kansas City?

AM: The blog, coffeelunchcoffee.com, is alive and well and I am blogging all the time. So that is one way that people on a global basis can gain access of this.   The book itself is available on my website and its available on Amazon and barnesandnoble.com.  This book is certainly not limited to Kansas City and the stories and experiences that I mentioned earlier are universal in nature and even though they are personal accounts and are very localized, I think that they translate well to communities all over the world.

JE: What is the next phase of “Coffee Lunch Coffee?”

AM:  I plan to do some speaking engagements and I hope to speak all over the country and that is goal number one.   In terms of another book, I will continue to blog and continue to collect more stories of networking success.   My hope is that my next book will focus on other people’s stories about networking, so they can prove that Coffee Lunch Coffee can and does work for people aside from myself.

You can connect with Alana on Coffee Lunch Coffee’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CoffeeLunchCoffee

Comments

  1. Superb, what a weblog it is! This web site provides helpful information to us, keep it up.

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar