Do you want to stand out in a sea of unmemorable faces? Pick up the phone and wish someone a Happy Birthday.

Rich Habit - Happy Birthday Calls
80% of the rich do this. 89% of the poor don’t. Find out what it is and how to do it here. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

In his book Rich Habits (buy it, seriously), Tom Corley writes that 80% of the rich make Happy Birthday calls while only 11% of the poor do. Now, this isn’t a direct cause-effect relationship. But I would posit that you have a much better chance of achieving your goals, financial or otherwise, if you make Happy Birthday calls.

Not a Happy Birthday email.

Not even a card (although you could certainly still send one).

Not a Happy Birthday Tweet. That’s very Web 2.0, but it’s amateur networking.

A call.

Pick up the phone and engage the Birthday Boy or Girl.

Why a call?

I prefer the call for three reasons.

1. You stand out.

Emails are too easy. I literally don’t remember a single birthday or congratulations email. They get lumped in with the hundreds of other emails I get in a day. I might smile and reply back, but that is it.

Cards are great and they have the benefit of being long-lasting. I might keep it and it might even stay on my desk for some time, but, like emails, they are a one-sided conversation.

2. It starts a conversation.

Conversation doesn’t mean the call goes like this:

“Happy Birthday, Joe. Please buy my product.” (NOTE: It’s even worse if the person’s name is not Joe)

But it is an opportunity to ask how people are doing, get updates on their families, and maybe, just maybe, allow them to ask what’s new in your life. There might be a door opening and there might not be. Either way, you get the benefit of the back-and-forth conversation.

3. You get immediate feedback.

With cards and emails, if you don’t hear back, you never know if they got them. With a call, you know they got it.

Bonus reason

If money is legitimately tight for you and you are just starting to network, calls are a great way to save a few bucks versus a card (remember, email is out…it’s lame, don’t even bother). Unless you have the worst phone plan known to man and haven’t heard of Google Voice (it’s free), your call will cost nothing.

But what about…

There are four common objections to doing Happy Birthday calls. Once I’m done ripping them apart, you’ll be searching for someone to call.

1. Won’t I be imposing on them?

They answered the phone didn’t they? Obviously they aren’t in the middle of open heart surgery or a board meeting.

Let me ask you…do you consider it an imposition when someone calls you with the sole purpose of making you feel special on your birthday? I didn’t think so. Case closed.

2. If I don’t know the person all that well, won’t it be creepy?

Rich Habits book by Tom Corley
Want to know the habits of wealthy Americans? I highly recommend this book.


I can’t give you a definitive “no” because I don’t know who you are calling. But let’s look at the risk in that.

Let’s say you call Sam. Sam is the head of a local company that is struggling with their marketing. You call Sam on his birthday despite only knowing him casually through a mutual friend. The call lasts five minutes.

Three months later he is looking for a marketing consultant, which you are. He doesn’t know any except the creepy guy that called him to wish him a Happy Birthday. Who do you think he calls first?

Probably you.

But maybe you really are creepy and it’s not you that he calls. Would it have likely been you otherwise? Doubtful.

You’ll stand out with most people, creep out a few, and have no impact on a few others. But the sum is a big win.

3. I don’t have the time.

Birthdays are a ready-made time to call your network. Can you think of another time to do that? It’s unrealistic to call everyone on holidays, but birthdays are spread throughout the year. Even if you’ve got a large network (which you probably developed through doing stuff exactly like this), you’ll spend at most an hour per week on average.

Ironically, those people with the smallest and coldest networks (the ones who most need to do this) are the ones who won’t.

The reality is that you do have the time.

4. I don’t know anyone’s birthday.

Despite this being a completely ridiculous argument against doing Happy Birthday calls, I’ll address it anyway.

To get birthdays, you just need to do a few things:

  • Ask. Yes, in the course of conversation, ask when someone else’s birthday is. Make a note of it and record it later.
  • Listen. If someone mentions they turned 38 yesterday, make a note. If they mention their birthday or someone else does, make a note.
  • Check social networks. LinkedIn (I show you how here), Facebook, Twitter, etc. all allow you to find out people’s birthdays. It might require some detective work to look for “Happy Birthday” wishes, but you’ll find it.
  • Skype. If you are connected to someone on Skype, they might share their birthday.
  • Google it. You’d be surprised how often this works.

Once you have the birthdays, simply put them in your calendar and call them on that day. It really is that simple.

Whatever fear you have of calling someone, get over it, stand out, and you’ll be on your way to being a next level networker.

How many non-family members did you call to wish a “Happy Birthday” last year?


Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.

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15 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Calls | Networking Tip from Tom Corley’s Rich Habits

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    Real connection builds relationships. I imagine a “thinking of you” call would have a similar impact, just in case anyone starts today. BTW when is your birthday? I’m might just give you a call, it’s about time we have a real conversation. Mine’s April 19th.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Totally…or “I saw you in the newspaper” or “your team won” or any reason.

      Mine is June 30. Right smack in the middle of the year 🙂

  2. Bill Benoist /Leadership Heart says:

    As Karin mentions, real connections build relationships. I would add fake connections can pretty much destroy relationships. Several years ago, I received a birthday card from a C-Level executive – computer generated with his first and last name. There was nothing personal at all with this card, although I speak with the person quite often.

    My birthday is May 2. The card came in August -:)

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Yikes! Pretty lame.

      And thanks for telling me your birthday 🙂

  3. It’s all about the WOW factor.

    Mine was last week… Jan 22. What if everyone who comments on this posts makes a call to each other? Hmmm

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Not a bad idea Jim. In fact…that gives me an idea 🙂

    2. Steve Pate says:

      love the idea, mine is Jan 25. Now for the action to happen!!!

  4. Steve Pate says:

    This part of the reason I don’t say happy birthday on Facebook that much any more, to me it’s a bit impersonal but a touch personal because they had to a least take 30 seconds to write happy -b-day and hit send.

    And I just bought the book….thanks for the suggestion Matt.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Check out his blog too. Richhabits.net

  5. Jon Stolpe says:

    If I had to guess, I probably personally said Happy Birthday to 30-40 non-family members. It wasn’t typically on the phone, but in person. I save birthdays in my outlook calendar. This helps me remember.

  6. Joe Lalonde says:

    This seems like a great way to blow people away. I’m going to give it a shot.

  7. Jana Botkin says:

    I usually cringe when the phone rings, and often I don’t pick it up because it is difficult with a paint brush in each hand and one in my teeth. I’m a card sender, and always considered a phone call to be the last minute non-planner’s solution. So, it is good to hear from normal folks about this method of communicating. . . I don’t even know what my phone plan is because there is no cell service at my house! Sigh. Every blog needs one of the exceptions, eh? October 12, BTW. 😎

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      HA! You liven things up Jana 🙂

  8. Nicholas Harper says:

    This is a wonderful idea that I’ve been doing for a long time. If done long enough, non-family members come to EXPECT their birthday call.😀

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Love it Nicholas!

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