SMALL BUSINESS NEWS - Cleveland

Java for two

Lunch Date thrives by writing its own rules for business.

By Dustin S. Klein

Since Mike Green founded Lunch Date in 1994, he hasn't 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 doesn't 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. "I'm filling a real need." The company's client list has grown from 20 of Green's friends and acquaintances to more than 1200 active clients from all over Northeast Ohio. They range in age from 25 - 72. Green's practices aren't really all that different than other business owners; he's just tailor-made them to fit the matchmaking business.

Learn on the fly
There's an old writer's adage that says, "Write what you know." The same usually holds true in business. People who found engineering firms are usually engineers, not architects. Green's background, however, is in medical sales, not dating services. And he readily admits he's never even tried a dating service himself. So what qualifies Green as a matchmaker? "I've become a good judge of character over the past five years," he says. "It's 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 we're ready to match two people up, we call and give them an accurate description of each other. "As the process goes on, we learn more and more about people." It's hard to argue with Green's 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. That's 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 Mrs.. Right. "We do all the leg work and we're 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. Green says Lunch Date only accepts white collar professionals, and does turn away people who don't fit that profile. "All of our clients are corporate people who are grounded in what they do," he says. "Or new transplants to town who simply don't know how, or don't have time, to meet people. We bridge the gap. People you meet through us you won't meet anywhere else."

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