You may have heard how Hernan Cortes,
the Spanish explorer in the 1500s, burned his ships to help motivate his
crew. According to Wikipedia, he scuttled those ships to prevent a
mutiny. Either way, it is a great story of commitment to one’s purpose.
There’s a good chance that many of you will mutiny on this article,
based on the title, so let me cut to the chase. The headline is
provocative, but true: I am advocating that you stop printing and
carrying business cards. Business cards are often a waste of the trees
they are printed on, recycled or not, as well as a waste of the
delicious soybean that was turned into soy ink if you chose that green
“We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges”
The main reason not to carry business cards is that all too often we
use them as a crutch. Admit it; you sometimes hand out cards instead of
truly engaging with the people you meet at networking events. I know I
have done it. So, in order to better connect, I started leaving cards
behind. It forced me to connect with the people I met.
On the flip side, pun intended, tell me how often you get a business
card and just stare at it, turning it over and over in your hand, while
the other person drones on. If you don’t have a business card as a
crutch, you’ll be forced to interrupt that drone and say “what on earth
are you talking about?”
As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you do not need a crutch.
You are bad to the bone, right? You are master of your domain. Or, to
parody Mel Brooks (if one can do such a thing), in Blazing Saddles: “We don’t need no stinkin’ business cards…”
I know that some of you are going to argue with me. Some of you are
going to be angry about this idea because business cards are a pillar in
the marketing and sales world. You need to print 5,000 at a time or so
the logic goes. But you don’t have to print business cards. You can
carry a pen and maybe a small notebook. I have to admit that I do have
business cards, but only so I can make a grocery shopping list that fits
neatly in my wallet.
If you must print business cards, print in small batches via Moo.com
or laser engrave a custom set from cereal box tops as my friend Jerry
Isdale, founder of Maui Makers, does when he needs cards. Visit
Ponoko.com for ideas on laser engraving.
If you have to print 5,000, then be like that real estate agent from
Texas who would take a huge box to every home football game and when her
team scored – she would throw them up in the air like confetti and
cheer for her team. She reported that she would almost always get a call
after the game asking her for help in selling or buying a house.
It is better to receive
In this case, it is better to receive than to give. If you don’t take
cards, or don’t have them, you can travel with just a mobile phone and
enter their phone number (and possibly email if you have a smartphone).
When the other party gives you a business card, you use that pen you
brought along and write a note on the back to email them immediately
when you return to the office. You can make up whatever excuse suits you
to explain why you don’t have cards.
The biggest reason to network, to attend events in person, is to meet
and serve new people. Sure, you can do that even if you carry business
cards. But if you leave them behind, you’ll be more likely to start and
keep a conversation going. You will be nudged out of your comfort zone,
which hopefully, will lead to new business and life relationships that
Cortes would have burnt your cards, by the way.