The really big draw for me to join Equal Experts earlier this year was how it is managed. In my role, I don’t have a manager. I don’t have a performance review or annual targets. The business operates on the assumption that its employees are autonomous and able to get on with things without being shackled by tools like an appraisal system.

It’s both liberating and terrifying. Hierarchical line management is such an assumed way of working that being within an organisation without it can be disorientating. We are certainly not unaccountable – as a client service business, we need to deliver value to our clients. But I find myself relying on tricks of self-motivation that I developed when I was working on my own under the guise of Stamp for six and a bit years.

One of those tricks, or “Work hacks” if you are into such things, was to use working out loud via the internet as a way to get myself accountable to do things that otherwise I wouldn’t get around to because something more urgent would always get in the way. Some of those things were simply silly, but many of them were important side projects that helped me to refine ideas or create new thinking. Some of them came off, and some of them didn’t.

And so that is the motivation behind the latest of these little projects: 100 coffees*.

Over the course of 2023, I’m going to endeavour to meet up with 100 people to have 100 coffees*. Hopefully, we are now entering a year where our ability to meet up with people is no longer constrained by the potential of contracting a life-threatening disease. So I want to take advantage of that and get to meet up in person with 100 different people in the next 12 months.

They may be people I already know. They may be completely new to me. They only need to be people who are willing to meet up to have a chat without any particular agenda.

We might talk about work. We might talk about the world in general. Who knows? If you only ever meet up with people with whom you know exactly why you are meeting up, then the world can be a boring place. I also accept that there are many people who don’t get that. That’s fine. We probably won’t be meeting in 2023.

This exercise is inspired both by some conversations we’ve been having recently at work about how we think about establishing and building relationships and also by the wonderful Mary McKenna who I believe has done similar exercises in the past.

I have a list of people I’d like to meet. I also would love to hear from people who would like to meet up. If that’s you, just drop me a line at or @ballantine70.

* other beverages are available.

7 thoughts on “100 coffees*

  1. I did something like this on a much smaller scale back in 2017. I met some fascinating people (Tony Wilson’s first intern for Factory Records; an artist; a social enterprise entrepreneur; several coffee addicts) and learned a great deal about them, about myself and about my own ‘career*’ journey.

    Oh, and that asking people to meet for coffee without an agenda is both liberating for some and terrifying for others. Good luck and enjoy the experience.

    * stop laughing at the back

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