On my car ride back from the beach over the July 4th holiday, I finished season 2 of a podcast called Startup. Over 13 episodes, the podcast profiled the rise and fall of an online startup called Dating Ring that tried to become the “Uber for Dates” using matchmaking techniques. The podcast made me obsessed with the art (and business) of matchmaking.
So, I grabbed lunch with Charlotte matchmaker Laurie Berzack to get the scoop.
Normally, I cyber stalk people on the internet before I speak with them, but with Laurie, I wanted a fresh perspective.
I’ll be honest, before our conversation, I really didn’t take matchmaking seriously. Maybe it was the 24-year-old girls on the podcast charging $100 for matchmaking services that could scale. Maybe it was the fact that I thought matchmaking was just a different version of match.com.
I was dead wrong. Laurie blew my mind. I can’t stop thinking about our lunch conversation.
We ordered salad and sandwiches and sat down near the window. Here’s what I learned about love and money.
(1) Business lesson: Love is valuable. Laurie charges $15,000 – $25,000 for an annual membership (fee is determined by the clients’ flexibility on the criterion that they are looking for in their future partner). I asked her the cost question about 2 minutes into our lunch and this completely changed my interest level and the dynamic of our conversation. If you believe that the person you marry dictates 90% of happiness in life (I do), then this is a small investment. Still, this number is a signal that she’s not messing around.
(2) Love lesson: It’s the network, stupid. As people age, their networks of single people dramatically decrease. Duh. College is the peak and Laurie described how people slowly pair up and as career becomes a focus, it’s only natural that one’s network rapidly decreases. My takeaway: a matchmaker’s main job is to expand your network and save you time. As Laurie said, “The whole key is to expand your network. That’s it.”
(3) Love lesson: Talk. The three mistakes that Laurie sees most daters make are: “Too much texting, too much drinking on dates and jumping into the sack too soon.” I could tell that our texting culture is killing her and she kept saying “pick up the phone, call and actually talk to the other person! You can’t have a relationship via text…”
(4) Business lesson: Markets always reward being #1 at something. Laurie’s not an idiot, she knows that at a $15,000+ price point, her business is not for most people. It’s for the doctors, lawyers, executives and those that find love valuable. Her high price point allows her to work with under 25 clients and give each client the level of service that leads to high quality outcomes.
(5) Business lesson: Love can come in different packages. Services offered include $240 for a 1:1 consulting session and $7,500 for online dating consulting (w/ 1:1 coaching sessions).
(6) Love lesson: The logistics of a blind date. Simplicity matters to Laurie and she focuses on just setting up a dinner (not the entire night or some type of romantic experience). Her clients can expect to be setup on a date every 4-6 weeks (she’s a methodical screener, so that her clients have high quality date experiences). Laurie explained to me how a typical date works:
- Step 1: Laurie confirms with both people that the date is a go.
- Step 2: Laurie asks the guy (always the guy) where he would like to take his date. Note: Laurie says, “You can learn a lot about a guy depending on what location he chooses.”
- Step 3: Reservation is made under the guy’s name and instructions are given for both parties to say, “Seat me at [guy’s name] table.”
- Step 4: Guy always pays. Period.
- Step 5: Laurie’s client fills out a feedback form on the date and they talk things over.
(7) Love lesson: Difference between males and females. Laurie recommends that daters “Don’t stress about instant chemistry. Initial chemistry matters more for guys than girls, but people grow on you.” That said, “If people don’t have good core values, it’ll never work.”
(8) Business lesson: User experience (UX) and client selection matters. Laurie is very selective about her clients because her results-oriented reputation is on the line with each new client. The process of becoming a client includes: filling out a 4 page application, background check and one hour consultation. She’ll turn down people that she knows aren’t ready because they’re way to picky. In terms of age, she mentioned, “The older you are, the more you know what you want. And the younger you are, the more open you are to different types of people.”
(9) Love lesson: Communication. Laurie explained that “No relationship is perfect. Love is a journey as your partner evolves and you have to invest time to be rewarded with a deep relationship.” I know this sounds like fluff (I should have asked more questions about this), but I could tell that Laurie firmly believed it.
(10) Business lesson: Confidence sells. All I needed was 4 minutes with Laurie to realize that she’s an expert. She openly discussed the failures (Charleston expansion) and successes she has had and about how she first started in the business with a Jewish-only matchmaking service in Charlotte named Chai Expectations.
(11) Business lesson: Rewarding. I could tell that Laurie was psycho about love. She told me the story about a Jewish couple she matched who got married; she saw one of their children run up and hug them at the Synagogue and the feeling this gave her.
(12) Love lesson: Talking about it is therapeutic. Laurie immediately made me feel open to discussing my own marriage and relationship. It’s startling how much you want to talk about your relationship to an experienced 3rd party. I had only known Laurie for 30 minutes, but I couldn’t help myself from telling her about how I met my wife, Lindsey, and the lessons I’d learned along the way.
(13) Love lesson: Idea of marriage. I decided to go all meta on Laurie and ask her a simple question: “Culture is rapidly changing. Is marriage a good thing? Should it exist as an institution?” She ate a bite of her salad and responded, “Yes, it’s a good thing. I don’t think we’re meant to live this world alone.”
(14) Business lesson: Results are the best form of marketing. Laurie told me “4 out of 5 of my clients find love and a long term partner either through a direct match or through my coaching within 1-2 years of hiring me! From last count, over 250 couples have met as a result of my matchmaking practice!”
(15) Love lesson: Me. At the end of our lunch, I asked Laurie, “Okay, so now that you know a little bit about me, who would you match me with (pretending I’m not married)?” She responded, “Somebody kind, creative, kind of nerdy/intelligent and curious.” I didn’t have the heart that to tell her than my wife, Lindsey, is just a mean hottie who loves to make out and text ;).