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Spotlight on Business: F.O.R.M. and the 80/20 Rule

by Glen Keene, JD, CPC

Lawyer and professional coach Glen Keene gives practical tips to businesses about improving customer and employee relationships and expanding their customer base and more.

Picture this. You’re at a major function. The possible clients, customers, contacts and prospects seem endless. Did you remember to bring your business cards? You are ready to make your move on one of the prospects but, you’re not sure how to break the ice. What do you do? How do you start a conversation in a natural, organic way? What will you say?

The F.O.R.M. method is a time tested, proven way to open a conversation with someone you have just met. It’s an easy to remember way to get to know someone in a very short time. F.O.R.M. is an acronym for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Message. All of us enjoy telling others about ourselves, who we are, what we like to do, how we serve others. We will naturally open up, even to a stranger, when asked who we are.

Always start with Family. For most people our family is the reason we do what we do. It is our ‘€˜Why’. It’s why we get up in the morning, why we take time off, why we do what we do. Family is, to many of us, the most important part of our lives. And we love to talk about them. I know I do. My grandchildren are one of my favorite topics of conversation. My wife and I have often said that if we had realized how great it is to have grandkids we would have had them first.

Next ask about their Occupation. What kind of work do they do? Where and with whom do they work? Do they enjoy what they do for a living? Does it serve their purpose? Perhaps they are open to doing business with you if there is a good fit.

Recreation is what we do for fun and enjoyment while we are not at our occupation. People seem to like to talk more about what we enjoy. And, recreational activities that we engage in on a regular basis are something we must enjoy. Otherwise we would engage in those activities.

Each of us has a Message we believe in. It could be a part of our occupation or our recreational activities. It may be separate and apart from those. In any case, if asked we will gladly let the questioner know what it is and why it’s important to us.

If you’re at a networking function don’t be surprised if your conversation seems like a game of tennis. The F.O.R.M. method is not new and those of us who network on a regular basis use it all the time. It’s use is testament to its power.

F.O.R.M. does work well but, only if you, as the one asking, obey the 80/20 rule. This rule is another very simple one to remember. It simply means, in this case, use your ears during 80% of the conversation and your mouth during 20%. In other words, to put it bluntly, shut up and listen. But, listen with interest.

Don’t try to interject your comments while the other person is talking. Allow them the freedom to express their thoughts. Let them know you’re paying attention and actually hearing what they are saying. If you have something you want to say or ask make a mental note of it. An appropriate moment to add your comment or ask your question will come up. But, only by listening to your new friend will you get to know them better. And, don’t worry. They will probably start the process with you and it will be your turn to talk.

The answers to the questions you ask will give you an open window into what you can do for them and serve their needs. After all isn’t that what business is really all about? Finding a way to serve others and providing it.

Glen is an attorney, certified professional coach and host of ‘€˜Spotlight on Success’ streamed live every Wednesday at 6:30p from Glen’s guest on Wednesday May 30 is singer, actor and entertainer Judy Stadt, host of the Lunch and Judy Show.

Email, visit or call 845-548-1769 with questions about Glen’s column, his program or his practice.

This article is for information purposes only. No legal advice is intended nor may it be assumed or implied.

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