Private clubs were originally conceived to exclude people. It was rarely put that way. Like-minded people could get together and socialize.

The world has changed. Private clubs have adapted. It’s a lot easier to join. Your country club and city dining clubs are good examples. If you attended an Ivy League university and live in a major metro city, they might have their own club building. It’s an ideal place for advisors to rub shoulders with the great and the good, or at least some of them.

There are often rules based on how the British do it. Cash is never shown. In practice, this means guests can’t pay. Business paperwork is forbidden. The advisor who treats their club like a networking group will soon be unpopular. People won’t want to drink with you or play golf. 

The private club environment is an ideal place to make connections with the right people and develop social relationships. Some of the best gave me a roadmap.

1. Cultivate the Maitre d’ at the dining room. Tipping might not be a bad idea. They can point out the new members, people new to the area that like playing golf yet don’t know many people.

2. Cultivate the bartenders. You know how it’s done. They can help, similar to the maitre d’ yet also approach it from the opposite direction. When a new face sits at the bar, drinking on their own, they can point you out as a person “they should know.”  They can add you “know everyone.”

3. Get them asking what you do. It’s tempting to think of the club bar environment as a networking venue, introducing yourself and asking icebreaker questions. Clubs are considered a retreat, a sanctuary of sorts. They might not want to be cultivated. They get enough of that in the outside world. A good technique is to get them to ask what you do. You might sit at the bar, order your single malt scotch and remark, just loud enough to be overheard: “It’s been one tough day. This is going to taste good.” The person nearby might say: “Tough day?” You remark it’s your busiest time of year. Curious, they ask: “Why? What do you do? Are you a CPA?” You know where to go from here.

4. Attending social events. There are lots of parties—wine tastings,  themed dinners. The registration procedure includes “seat me with…” Write “seat us with anyone.” There’s a committee organizing seating in the background. They will be relieved. You aren’t making things difficult. You will gradually meet more and more people.

5. Buffet lines. Here’s another opportunity to meet members. Don’t wait for the line to lessen. Join in. Use this “down time” to start conversations with the people ahead of and behind you.

6. Committees. Some clubs have roles for volunteers. The social committee puts you in a position to meet many people. You might stand at the entrance to the banquet room, greeting guests and thanking them for coming. You might staff the registration desk. The membership committee puts you in a gatekeeper role. New members are made to feel welcome. You introduce them around.

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