The Face To Face Reference Check
Regular readers of this blog know that I was fortunate to learn the venture business via an old school apprenticeship at the feet of two late 50s/early 60s venture capitalists named Milton and Bliss. I learned a ton from those guys over ten years from 1986 to 1996.
I was reminded of that yesterday morning when I took another VC out for coffee to do a reference on a person we are thinking of hiring to run one of our companies. After we spent fifteen minutes talking about a person that had run one of his companies, the other VC said to me "I'm impressed that you took the time to meet me face to face. This is not an easy reference."
That's exactly the point. Milton taught me to do all the important references face to face. He said "people will lie or hide the truth from you over the phone but they can't do that when you are looking them in the eye."
But it's not just about lies versus the truth. The phone is all about expediency. Both people on the call have a job to do and each of them is looking to get through the call and move on to something else.
A cup of coffee is an opportunity to meet someone, talk about a few other things, make a friend or a business acquaintance. Done right, the face to face reference check is a lot more than a reference check. It's a way to grow your network and your business. And it's also the best way to find out exactly what you need to know about a person you want to hire, invest in, or otherwise go into business with.