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Setting the stage for valuable relationships

Entertaining clients or prospective customers can be a pleasant and rewarding experience, given the right venue. Meeting for breakfast, lunch or dinner-plus or minus a congenial round of golf-helps build positive relationships that can lead to enhanced business opportunities, some up-and-comers say.
 
Philip Pecora, a 2004 Forty Under 40 honoree, enjoys meeting with clients and prospects at Oak Hill Country Club. Pecora, president and CEO of Genesee Regional Bank, has been a member of Oak Hill for 10 years.
 
"Many of my customers are small- and medium-sized business owners, and meeting at Oak Hill for lunch followed by 18 holes of golf is a great way for us to spend quality time together," says Pecora, 41, whose office at Linden Oaks Office Park is conveniently within a five-minute drive from the country club.
 
With more than 700 members at Oak Hill, the atmosphere is conducive to introducing clients to one another, thereby fostering networking, Pecora adds.
 
"There’s always a lot of activity," he says.
 
In addition, meetings that involve sensitive business issues can be held in the facility’s private rooms.
 
"The atmosphere at Oak Hill is congenial and the food is good, so it’s really a one-stop-shopping venue," notes Pecora, who can be found at Oak Hill a few times each week. "You’d think I’d weigh 300 pounds for all the food I eat each week."
 
Another one of Pecora’s favorite venues for business entertaining is Black & Blue Steak and Crab at Pittsford Plaza. Pecora says he enjoys the food, and the restaurant’s proximity to a Genesee Regional Bank branch across the street from the plaza makes it a natural place for meeting with clients and prospects. He is looking forward to hosting client gatherings at the future restaurant that will be in the Culver Road Armory complex.
 
Pecora also is a fan of Restaurant 2 Vine in downtown Rochester’s East End district.
 
"Clients love meeting at 2 Vine because it is a fun and lively place, and you always run into people that you know," he says.
 
The central location of 2 Vine makes it an attractive meeting spot for business owners throughout Monroe County.
 
"The location is perfect for west-siders and east-siders to meet," Pecora says. "Most important, the atmosphere is relaxed, making it an ideal spot for building business relationships."
 
Like Pecora, fellow Forty Under 40 alum Gregg Lederman is a fan of Black & Blue, a steak and seafood restaurant in Pittsford. Brighton resident Lederman, a 2006 Forty Under 40 honoree, is founder and CEO of Brand Integrity Inc., a 16-member firm that provides consulting and software solutions.
 
The 10-year-old company, which serves clients in health care, retail and professional services, is based in Rochester on Park Avenue, with satellite offices in Chicago and Houston.
 
"I enjoy hosting dinners for clients at Black & Blue because the service is amazing-and exceptional customer service is something that my business offers as well," notes Lederman, who is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business. "The whole restaurant is high-energy with incredible service. The restaurant’s management team makes it a point to get to know their customers well."
 
For more casual meetings, Lederman enjoys meeting clients and prospective customers for breakfast or lunch at Jines Restaurant on Park Avenue. In addition, he likes running into friends and business acquaintances at Midtown Athletic Club. Lederman works out during the early morning several days each week and visits the club with his family all summer long for tennis and swimming.
 
"Business owners who take the time to get to know their clients leave everyone with a positive impression," Lederman says, reminiscing about the affable way that Mario Daniele always chatted tableside with his customers at Mario’s, his first, intimate restaurant location on East Avenue. "When the atmosphere is comfortable, then everyone just feels more relaxed."
 
Entertaining clients and prospects is a significant and important part of a lawyer’s job, says Peter Abdella, a 25-year veteran attorney with Harter Secrest & Emery LLP.
 
Abdella, a 1997 Forty Under 40 honoree who lives in the Browncroft neighborhood of Rochester, is a litigator who focuses on commercial and construction business transactions.
 
Abdella appreciates breakfast meetings with clients and potential clients "because we all seem to be able to be more focused and get more done in the morning hours," he says.
 
At least once each week, Abdella, a Jamestown native who graduated from SUNY Buffalo, can be found hosting clients for breakfast at Jines Restaurant or at the Genesee Valley Club on East Avenue.
 
"Years ago, we did more lunchtime meetings, but now it is hard to break away during the day to meet," Abdella explains.
 
Nonetheless, Abdella and his colleagues readily sponsor dinner meetings for their clients as a way of celebrating the end of major litigation or real estate closings. Those gatherings offer an opportunity for the entire legal team to bond with the clients in a more casual setting. Some favorite destinations for such business entertaining include Henry B’s and Sagamore Grill as well as the Bamba Bistro. Typically, Abdella requests a private room at one of those locations, so that the conversation is not shared with the entire restaurant.
 
Like Pecora, Abdella also hosts clients for occasional golf outings, which usually include a meal as well. Still, packed days necessitate more focused conversation.
 
"For all of us, time during the day is limited," Abdella says. "Still, it is always important to get together with clients and share a good meal."                              

Debbie Waltzer is a Rochester-area freelance writer.


11/11/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail
rbj@rbj.net.

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