Strike When The Iron Is Hot

I introduced a young friend of one of my children to a colleague in the tech business last month. The young friend took a day to reply to the email introduction and by then the introduction had gone cold.

Happily the introduction resurfaced this week and something may still come of it.

That story reminds me of another.

It was 1996 and Flatiron Partners had just relocated to the Flatiron district of NYC (we really had no choice but to locate there). A friend invited me to lunch at Gramercy Tavern which had opened a couple years previously and was one of the most happening restaurants in NYC.

We sat down to lunch and Danny Meyer, the owner of Gramercy Tavern, comes into the restaurant and starts working the lunch time crowd.

When he gets to our table my friend says to Danny “please meet Fred Wilson, founder of Flatiron Partners who has just relocated his business to the neighborhood.” Danny reached into his pocket, took out his business card, and said to me “Welcome to the neighborhood. If you ever need a table please give me a call and we will take care of you.”

That night when I got home I told the Gotham Gal “I met Danny Meyer today and he gave me his card and said I could call him whenever I need a table.” To which she replied “go there for lunch tomorrow.” And I told her “I don’t have a lunch tomorrow.” She said “Get one. He will remember who you are tomorrow but won’t next month.”

So I got a lunch, called Danny, got a table, and he again said hello when he worked the lunch crowd (something he used to do whenever he was in town). I became friends with Danny and still call him when I need a table at one of his restaurants and can’t get one on Resy.

Striking while the iron is hot is so important. I often thing of the Gotham Gal saying “get one.” It was absolutely the right thing to do and always is.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. LE

    introduced a young friend of one of my children to a colleague in the tech business last month. The young friend took a day to reply to the email introduction and by then the introduction had gone cold.This has happened to me so many times in the past that I have lost track.One example is my niece. She ends up in her freshman year at GWU and my sister tells me she probably will want to get a job at some point. So I call an attorney that I deal with (somewhat friendly as well) and ask him if will meet with her. He says sure no problem have her call me. So I tell my sister. She says ‘oh she isn’t ready for a job yet maybe next year’. I am totally disappointed. Not because I reached out the the attorney but because my sister was clueless ie ‘lunch with Danny Meyer I am not hungry’ about the reason for doing so. Even if she didn’t need the job at that time geez take the meeting and then even keep in touch. So even if he doesn’t have a job at that time you bank the contact for the future.

  2. LE

    Here is probably the best example of ‘strike while the iron is hot’ and missed opportunity that I can think of.At my daughters college graduation a few years ago there was a man who spoke (doesn’t matter who or about what) and honestly it was a pretty good speech. At the time my daughter had a job lined up already but I told her to get in contact with the speaker to have lunch so when she needed to get a job later she would know him. Plus he seemed like a great person to connect with career wise. That’s what it’s all about, right? But I just didn’t tell her (to tell him) she wanted to have lunch. I told her that she should download a copy of the speech and memorize it so that when she had lunch she could tell him what she liked about the speech. [1] ‘Effort and Research’ And even though she had a job she should do this right away so she would have the contact in the future. And keep in touch. Not when she would meet with an agenda ‘looking for a job’. And I also said that I was sure that she probably would be the only person who contacted him (he wasn’t famous or notable in any significant way) and that he would like that. But important enough to give a graduation speech (think he was a big donor).She said she would do that but she never did. I kept reminding her but she still didn’t do it. I was totally disappointed honestly. Now per your point the iron is no longer hot but it probably wouldn’t even make sense to the man why she was contacting him. Honestly this really bothered me a great deal (hence the vent here at AVC). Lead a horse to water but ‘no beber agua'[1] And that he would appreciate both the effort of her doing so and the fact that she genuinely like the speech (I thought it was pretty good).

  3. TeddyBeingTeddy

    Yes exactly. I remember meeting this girl at the bar once. WAY out of my league. She just found out her boyfriend cheater on her, this was her first outing since. I told her the guy was an idiot, she was the total package…insanely attractive, great personality, and would make a great mom someday. The discussion took place at the right time. We hung out thru breakfast the next morning, where everyone was looking at us like “WTF is that girl doing with that nerd?!.”Had I waited even a week, surely several other suitors would’ve gained her attention and she’d never give me the time of day. Everything is a momentum game…baseball, work, dating, networking, everything. Strike while the iron is hot.

  4. kenberger

    What to do when you have very many hot irons at once, as perhaps suggested in the recent AVC post “Drinking from the [crypto] firehose”?

    1. fredwilson

      A nice problem to have but still a problem

  5. DJL

    So true. Especially when dealing with personal relationships. (Next time in NYC I will be sure to name drop you at Gramercy. ;>)

    1. LE

      Name drop also works even if you don’t know the person you are dropping as a name. Really it does. Try it sometime.

  6. the_infonaut

    Wouldn’t have happened if conversation had been on Instagram DM

  7. awaldstein

    Advice from a naturally born salesperson.

  8. LE

    I became friends with Danny and still call him when I need a table at one of his restaurants and can’t get one on Resy.For you the story relates the value to you of Danny in terms of getting a table at his restaurant. Or a friendship (thinking in NYC being friends with Danny would mean something as in NYC people are a currency). “Hey I know Danny Meyer he is a good friend”. [1]Personally (and to most people) that (a reservation) is not that valuable at all. For one thing there are many dining choices in NYC. But even more importantly Danny’s value is not (for most people) in getting a table. It’s in who he knows and who he can connect you with.Now of course to you (since you have made it) that doesn’t matter at all. But to many others Danny’s rolodex and intro could be life changing. That is the much larger point. And if you hadn’t made it knowing Danny could be the ticket of an intro to people that could provide opportunity to you. So maybe you are missing that given where you are at in life now.I am curious how many others see that point? (I am sure Joanne would.) No doubt that if Josh is thinking about being a chef than Danny (and your other restaurant owner contacts) would be very valuable.

    1. TeddyBeingTeddy

      I disagree with you (I think). Outside of family and friends, people pretty much are currency. Danny Meyer wants “the right” people at his restaurant because that attracts more customers. Fred Wilson was at Grammarcy last night is incredibly valuable for him. I’m sure that’s no small part of his success/demand formula for restaurants. A model’s currency is her looks. Having a vast network of different people that can help in different ways is tremendously valuable. I guarantee Fred has used the Danny contact to impress a prospect. And again, Danny benefits when that happens. The world is basically an accounting system full of prepaid favors and accrued liabilities. Fred has mastered that, so has Danny. So should we.

      1. LE

        Not sure what you are saying at least relative to my point. Fred is relating something that happened back in 1996. At that time Fred was a nobody. Danny had a hot restaurant. Are you suggesting that Danny knew in advance based on a single intro that Fred would have value sitting in his restaurant? Are you also suggesting that Fred and Joanne sitting in a restaurant is valuable in the way that, say, Beyonce or Michael Bloomberg would be? I don’t think that is the case at all.I guarantee Fred has used the Danny contact to impress a prospect.I don’t think that is Fred actually. That is something that JLM might do in Texas with a restaurant owner. [1] I don’t see Fred rolling that way at all. And I don’t even see Danny Meyer being a heavy weight at all in terms of who Fred (if he was that type and I don’t think he is) needs to impress.[1] Or me because you know I have done business with Danny Meyer and a host of other notable people.

        1. TeddyBeingTeddy

          You’re probably right and I’m probably wrong. But I’m willing to bet (i) Danny had a hunch Fred was somebody, and that (ii) Fred took some entrepreneur to a hot DM restaurant in NYC that helped him win a deal. Just a hunch, but let’s just say Danny probably would terminate my long standing reservation to give either you or Fred seats, so hard for a guy like me to make the case anyway!

          1. LE

            But I’m willing to bet (i) Danny had a hunch Fred was somebodyThere is little disadvantage and all upside to a person in business assuming that someone is a somebody until proven otherwise. Or if no effort and no distraction simply treating everyone as important although in all honestly that is not always possible. Or even a good use of time. That is the way banks are for example and I think it is often lame to do so. But then again it’s a bank and that’s the level they hire at.One of the first lessons that I learned in business was when the then operator of the Painted Bride art center (Gerry Givnish) walked into my shop during a rain storm. I thought he was a bag man (homeless) he was dripping wet, looked like a hippy and was carrying things in a large plastic bag. Later he turned out to be a really good customer. I just wasn’t used to the way artists look. Learned a good lesson from that experience. [1] Important point: Learned a lesson.…[1] I remember a friend in high school also telling me that he was nice to all girls (even ugly ones) until at least he found out who their friends were.

    2. Salt Shaker

      There may be a ton of restaurants in nyc, but for the real popular, elite class it’s hard to get a res. Gramercy Tavern fits that bill. I have an “in” at Babbo, another fine restaurant w/ excellent food. I’m a nobody, seriously, just happen to have a connection w/ ownership. The maitre d didn’t immediately recognize my name when I checked in and we got a shit table. When I re-introduced myself it was like hitting a light switch. Bam, a better table, comped proseco, appetizer and desert. Play that hand now whenever in ny…and continually rave about the restaurant to others. GG gave smart advice to Fred, but Danny Meyer was smart in that transaction too. He’s quite a marketer. Look no further than Shake Shack.

      1. LE

        When I re-introduced myself it was like hitting a light switch. Bam a better table, comped proseco, appetizer and desert.Well if not obvious though that is part of the game. You give normal treatment and then when someone opens their mouth you upgrade them and they think you are just singling them out.Had that happen at Nobu in Miami Beach recently. We were seated and we got a bad table. The front check in ‘girl’ said ‘sorry nothing else is open’. Sorry.So I asked to speak to the manager. He came over, apologized, and immediately gave us a great table. And it wasn’t because I know him, or that I am a good customer, am impressive in any way or notable. All I did was ask.The game is simple. Hard to believe they haven’t perfected this on a broad scale. Because it makes sense in so many advice to Fred, but so was Danny Meyer in that transactionHonestly if you are in business for yourself in any way this is stuff that is kind of basic bread and butter way of behaving and thinking but not taught at Wharton. I mean even when I used to wax cars in high school and I got a referral from a customer to another customer I gave them something extra (I told them) because they were referred. That made everyone feel good all around. If you simply pay attention and build on people’s reactions you learn this type of manipulation at the simplest level.Netflix has a good documentary on Danny Meyer by the way.

        1. Salt Shaker

          Customer service is an easy concept to grasp, but surprisingly hard to execute. Those that do it well standout. Attention to details matters.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Good restaurants are about entertainment, entertaining the customers — the excuse is the food, and it’s part of the entertainment but only part of it.

      2. awaldstein

        Danny Meyer and Keith McNally are both true marketing geniuses.More fond of Keith’s places being a downtowner and remember Lucky Strike and Odeon from the early days.It’s all about who you know of course.My calling card is the wine world. Name dropping only works to a point, true friendship or massive influence both lasts longer.

        1. Salt Shaker

          Have eaten at both Lucky Strike and Odeon, though haven’t been to either in years. Always liked Odeon’s vibe. Ha, I dropped your name at Chambers Street Wine, though service is gen good and welcoming at high end shops 🙂

          1. awaldstein

            Every now and again I stop at Odeon for a dinner with out of towners.Basically the same since Warhol hung out there but still the very first restaurant I know of that did grass feed steaks and Jura wine anywhere in NY.

  9. Jeremy Robinson

    Great advice, great wife! How much of our lives is about making the timing work for us? Your wife helped you realize you needed to go to lunch the next day. The young friend of your kids has hopefully learned not to sit on a hot lead he gets from Fred Wilson.

  10. Jim Winn

    This reminds me of the idea of Luck Surface Area from Jason Robert’s blog (…. Our company realized how impactful these “strike when the iron is hot” / LSA types of meetings and conversations were to our growth about the same time I saw jason’s post, and we’ve tried to really focus in on this in 2018.

  11. Ruhinda Ruganda

    I have never met Danny, but this seems like a recurring story of those that have. Mastering the art of people is a wonderful thing. Apparently has great ROI. (Service as a Service) 🙂

    1. jason wright

      ‘service as a service’. i like that.

  12. jason wright

    Danny who? is he like a Gordon Ramsay?i always bring my own table if i think there’s going to be a supply issue.

    1. aminTorres

      hehe, this is hilarious but I cannot tell if it is a joke or if you re missing a point. Hope it is a joke… either-way, I got a chuckle out of it. 🙂

      1. jason wright

        i genuinely don’t know who Danny is, but after yesterday’s ‘no surrender’ skirmish i thought a plat du jour of chuckles ought to be on today’s menu. enjoy it while it lasts. hostilities may resume at any moment 🙂

  13. William Mougayar

    22 years later, I walk into Gramercy Tavern and the now Chef-Partner Michael Anthony (he works for Danny) is near the bar while we wait for our table. We strike a conversation around natural wines, and he gives me his card, and says to email him any time we need a table, or come back tomorrow. The next day, at dinner we make a reservation and let him know. He had to go home early, but he took care of us by sending surprise items. Two months later, we email him after reserving for dinner, and he also gives us another royal treatment. Suffice to say, Gramercy Tavern is one of our favorite NYC restaurant, not the least is that we also befriended the sommelier, which makes dining life a lot easier. 🙂

  14. meredithcollinz

    Joanne ain’t no dummy! Strike while the iron is hot, indeed!

    1. sigmaalgebra

      You GOT it: The small point was the advice; the big point was have a good wife!

  15. William Mougayar

    How about “Make hay while the sun shines”. I like that one too …

    1. sigmaalgebra

      That was another of Dad’s common remarks.

  16. Lawrence Brass

    The proactive version of this is “heat the iron before striking”.

  17. Frank W. Miller

    Yes, but can you get a table at Dorsia?

    1. jason wright…the eternal question.n.b. please excuse the Manhattan modalities. island evolution and all that.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        The character of the difficult to please young woman in bed was terrific! Some fiction writers are darned good at extreme characterizations!For a non-fiction version:I wanted my wife and I to have dinner at André Soltner’s east side, Midtown Manhattan restaurant Lutece. So, she got us the reservations. She pretended to be my secretary and asked for reservations for “The Drs. …”. That was legitimate enough since we both had Ph.D. degrees — no MD degrees! At the end of the dinner, Soltner visited our table. We’d had some small, roasted chickens, a good Corton from some year or other, a cheese course with some of the Corton, etc. Good food.I’m sure she did a first class job acting as my secretary — she was magnificent at acting and manipulation. Uh, never at any other time did she want to pretend to be my secretary!!!Well, I have good evidence that her acting was sufficient but not very good evidence it was necessary!

  18. Jeff Judge

    I love this story. We need more Gotham Gal in this world 🙂

  19. Pointsandfigures

    So true and great advice. This could be a difference between how men and women think. I would have gone down the same logical track as you. Women pick up social cues a lot faster and know how to act on them.

  20. sigmaalgebra

    Naw, you went for a small point and missed the big point!!! As some down to earth people in the US South might have said, you strained over gnats and forget elephants. :-)!!!Small Point. “Strike while the iron is hot” — yes, common phrase from Dad who knew a lot about metal cutting, forging, machining, welding, etc. Good advice.Big Point. Get a really, really, really GOOD wife!!!!! :-)!!!For young women: Shut up, sit down, listen up, learn, and see the importance of being a good wife and some of how the heck to do that. The strong home you help build will be half yours! For being a really good wife, as in this example, there is plenty of hard work to do just between your two ears.In particular, starting in the crib and year by year from then on, you know much more about people than he does, will be way ahead of him, and over the years, no matter how much you try to teach him, will stay way ahead of him. Even by the time he is in his 50’s, you may know good points you learned as a teenager, as maybe GG did in this case, that he still needs to learn!

  21. Tracey Jackson

    The “Gal” knows about what she speaks.

  22. John Revay

    Fred,Very timely – I find myself in transition…and sometimes find myself cautions not to reply too soon re: coming across as over eager…and or having time on my hands just waiting for an email to to come into reply to.

  23. Mitch Kline

    excellent advice.

  24. marko calvo-cruz

    This post is a GEM. Thank you for sharing

  25. andrewparker

    You told me this story IRL roughly a decade ago. It made a very strong impression on me at the time, and I have even relayed it to others in parable form to make a point twice (though both times were personal than professional).I love the times when your blog is the public version of the USV analyst program. Pearls of wisdom that I collected over my years at USV keep trickling out here, and I’m delighted everyone gets to benefit together.

    1. fredwilson

      It really is such a great story

  26. Terry D. Whalen

    So simple, so, so important!!!

  27. Skeptik

    I tell my children all the time 1) you might only live in text messages but adults also live in email. You must check your email at least daily. 2) never make an important call to an adult on a mobile phone. Anyone over 45 yrs old doesn’t want to hear the warbling. Use a landline. 3) Use good table manners. Kids don’t care but adults notice and they speak volumes about your upbringing. 4) Don’t procrastinate when thanking someone or responding to someone’s offer. 5) return all calls/emails, even if only to say never call or write me again.Striking at opportunity is critical but conducting oneself appropriately throughout a career is also critical.

  28. rh0dium

    So last week I had the privilege of hearing Danny speak at the Global Leadership summit. While I agree this (in part) has to do with salesmanship, Danny is just not any salesman. Danny is a gifted leader who clearly understands hospitality. He understands there is a fundamental difference between “service” and “hospitality”. He told us that 49% of the business is technical and 51% is hospitality. The technical side includes hiring, finance, logistics, menu, seating, location, booking etc. Service is a subset of the technical side. All of this can (and will) be copied by your competition at some point. Hospitality includes kind eyes, the work ethic, empathy towards others, self awareness and above all integrity. Hospitality cannot be copied. You can everything technically right (the reservation, the menu, the location) but you will only get to 49%. You have to have the hospitality nailed to give your customers a reason to want to come back.

  29. Shalabh

    i love this advice and something i and many others can benefit from. thanks for sharing this

  30. David Albrecht

    Love the overarching point here but a day seems like a pretty short shelf life for a high-quality intro. People take vacations and generally have lives. I hope I never pass on something genuinely good because I forget about it after a day.

  31. Erik Bullen

    Love this story because of the life lesson and insight into your relationship with Gotham Gal. Reminds me of my wife who always is my guiding beacon (and is usually right).

  32. Matt Zagaja

    Only a day for it to go cold? Always thought a reply within 24 hours might be a bit aggressive with professional acquaintances, but now you gave me something to rethink.

  33. JohnSmithy4

    Picking up on David Albrecht and Skeptik’s comments above (and also realizing that it is not the main point of the post), I’m curious as to the story that started the post.Was it really the case that the young friend’s failure to follow up on the introduction email until the next day caused your colleague to somehow question the seriousness of the young friend of your child? I’m picturing you emailing your colleague about this being a friend of my kid who would love to meet with you blah blah blah and also picturing you copying that young friend on the email. Then, the young friend follows up the next day.I don’t work in either the VC or startup world so I’m curious – is a one-day delay in replying to an email enough to make your colleague question the seriousness of the young friend? In my world, I could see a couple of weeks delay or perhaps a month-long delay resulting in my not bothering to follow up with the young friend but certainly not a one-day delay. I am just curious so that when I do interact with people in the VC/startup world, I am aware of the expectations.Also, what happened to “resurface” the introduction?

  34. JohnSmithy4

    Sorry, I guess the comments are “below,” not “above.”

  35. Druce

    quote first used in Canterbury Tales, maybe…and the variation “Not only strike while the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.” – possibly started with a version by Ben Franklinhttps://quoteinvestigator.c…