On a very irregular basis, I share a meal with some of the wealthiest people in the world. There have been billionaires, but most are considerably less affluent. More often they’re the senior executives of family offices. While not astoundingly wealthy in their own right, they direct substantial fortunes.

I’ve been having breakfasts and lunches with these people for a couple of years now, and I see no reason to stop. While I’ll sometimes meet them for dinner, I prefer to avoid that meal. Dinners tend to never end. Breakfasts and lunches last a couple of hours or less and tend to be more business-oriented.

The places we go are very nice. However, anyone can dine at these restaurants and clubs as long as they’re willing to pay the price and follow the dress code (sometimes there’s a dress requirement, but not always). As I’m the one being requested at the meeting, my hosts pick up the bill. This isn’t anything special because, as a consultant, I almost never pick up the check.

One of the most important lessons I learned many years ago is that these meetings are very, very, very unlikely (just about never) going to lead to consulting engagements. If I do indeed get an engagement from one of these individuals, it’s commonly after a few years of interactions where I provided extensive insights and perspectives (otherwise known as working for free).

I don’t see these meetings as business opportunities. Instead, I look at them as learning opportunities. While their intent is to get my views and assessments, these are occasions for me to make sure I’m consistently current with what’s going on in their worlds.

There’s a further learning opportunity for me in that I’ve been able to go back to these people and ask them to participate in a research project. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

After more than a quarter century researching the affluent, there tends not to be that many stunningly new findings from these research activities. For example, I’ve known for a while that the most powerful way to access the wealthiest of the wealthy is through introductions from their close professional advisors. This finding is an undisputable fact. Still, I find that these meals reveal nuances to that core concept that enable me to subtly, but significantly, refine networking strategies to reach all manner of the affluent.

So, I have meals with these people to learn. I also learn a lot at dinners, when dinner is the only option. With the often lubricating effect of alcohol, I learn all sorts of interesting stories that, on rare occasions, I can share. All in all, having meals with the exceptionally affluent and their proxies, such as the senior executives of family offices, is always informative.