Since Mike Green founded Lunch Date in 1994, he hasnt followed any of the conventional rules of business that dictate how companies are usually run.
He had no experience in the business of matchmaking; he regularly turns away business; he doesnt actively pursue repeat customers; and his business model is designed in such a way that he only receives a one-time flat fee.
That said, Green has turned Lunch Date which links white collar professionals for casual dates over coffee or lunch into a success over the past five years. I realized it was difficult to meet other single people in Cleveland, he says. Im filling a real need.
The companys client list has grown from 20 of Greens friends and acquaintances to more than 1,200 active clients from all over Northeast Ohio. They range in age from 25 to 72.
Greens practices arent really all that different than other business owners; hes just tailor-made them to fit the matchmaking business.
Learn on the fly
Theres an old writers adage that says, Write what you know. The same usually holds true in business. People who found engineering firms are usually engineers, not architects.
Greens background, however, is in medical sales, not dating services. And he readily admits hes never even tried a dating service himself.
So what qualifies Green as a matchmaker?
Ive become a good judge of character over the past five years, he says. Its a matter of reading people and making the right matches.
Intuition, he says, drives the entire process.
You get a feel for it., he says. We do face-to-face interviews and get a comprehensive view of each person. Then, when were ready to match two people up, we call and give them each an accurate description of the other.
As the process goes on, we learn more and more about people.
Its hard to argue with Greens results.
More than 70 couples have gotten married after meeting through Lunch Date, many of whom have already had children.
We call those Lunch Date babies, Green says.
Be choosy about your clientele
We only take people that we feel we can match and are consistent with the rest of our client base, says Green.
Thats drastically different from other dating services, where an entrance fee may put your video or photo on file with hundreds of other people looking for Mr. or Ms. Right.
We do all the leg work and were narrowing the field for them, says Green.
Legwork involves comprehensive interviews with Green or his staff, where dozens of topics and interests are explored and background information is gathered. The staff makes physical notes about the person and observations about their personality.
Then, a rigorous background check begins. Green verifies the applicants age, marital status, education, occupation and criminal background. He says only three times have there been discrepancies between what an applicant told him and what the background report showed.
Weve never had a problem in six years, he says.
Green says Lunch Date only accepts white-collar professionals, and does turn away people who dont fit that profile.
All our clients are corporate people who are ground in what they do, he says. Or new transplants to town who simply dont know how, or dont have time, to meet people. We bridge the gap. People you meet through us you wont meet anywhere else.
Charge a one-time flat fee
Greens business model is designed to provide one payment from each client a flat $595 fee to participate in the service. For that, each client receives six dates over six months.
While that may not sound like much, those six dates are only the ones Lunch Date provides. For example, two people are brought together downtown for coffee after work. They hit if off and plan three more dates before coming back to Green to pursue someone else. That still counts as only one of the six dates, explains Green.
Its six different people over six month.
And Green hasnt buttonholed himself into pushing clients away after theyve exhausted their six dates in six months. If they wish to continue, a practice Green doesnt actively chase, they can renew for $395.
Discourage repeat business
Our goal for the clients is to hook them up and never hear from them again, Green says. I dont want someone to come back and say they had a bad time.
Realistically, though, that doesnt normally happen on the first lunch date. And since the service provides six dates over six months, it may be a few dates before two people click.
The biggest challenge is making sure everyone is happy, he says. We want to hear from both sides. Thats how we modify our approach for the next date or match.
But nothing is more satisfying to Green than when it truly works out and he loses his clients.
A couple walked in a few weeks ago (in May) and knocked on my door. They met a year ago and had just got engaged. They wanted to stop by and show me the ring and thank me for having this business.
While Green would rather not have his customers renew after their initial six-month membership, he does hope his clients pass along the word about Lunch Date.
If someones made happy, theyll tell two of their friends about it and theyll join, he says. Thats the kind of repeat business we do look for.