Business networks can lead to love
Some of the principles you use in work can also be applied to finding your partner, says a top match-maker
Tear up your list of ideal traits, and use your professional networking skills - that's the advice professional matchmaker Liz Doyle (inset) is giving lonely businessmen and women.
Ms Doyle, who is from Belfast, has run matchmaking service The Fine Dining Club in the city for seven years and claims to have helped thousands of professionals find love during that time.
She says the skills needed to win someone over remain the same in both work and play.
"People do business with other people - it's all about relationships," she said.
"A business can look very shiny and wonderful from the outside, but you have to meet the people behind it to know if you can work with them. The art of forming relationships is the same, whether you are doing it for business reasons or for personal reasons."
Ms Doyle previously worked for investment bank Lehman Brothers in the US. Lehman, whose 2008 bankruptcy heralded the start of the credit crunch, put a lot of emphasis on networking and even sent employees on workshops to finesse their interpersonal skills.
Ms Doyle has also provided similar networking workshops for top Northern Ireland firms based on her success at hosting personal networking events.
Although she can't disclose names, Ms Doyle says she has worked with professionals at almost every major firm in the city and with Northern Ireland TV and radio presenters.
She puts prospective members through rigorous vetting, where she meets them in person and checks their background before they are invited to group events. Members must be single, widowed, divorced or separated for at least a year and have paid the £600 joining fee.
"Dating profiles are like an advert, but other adverts have the Advertising Standards Agency on their back, that isn't the way it is online. I'm not 5ft 8in with long legs, and but I can pretend I am."
Ms Doyle told of her own blind date experience - she met a date at a bar and wondered why he had sent his father - only to realise it was the date himself, who had duped her with an out-of-date picture on his dating profile.
"Most professionals are time poor," she said. "They can't afford the time to meet someone who might not be who they say they are. Rather than setting up meetings one-on-one we bring together 10 single men and 10 single women, who have been vetted by me personally.
"Discretion and privacy are very important and are the biggest draw for professionals. You don't want to see your GP or lawyer on a dating website and they won't want to advertise that they are single either.
"If you are a company boss, you can't be on a website where all your employees are. They don't want to advertise they are single on a website."
Ms Doyle explained that she used to organise business-themed dinner parties for friends, but when the conversation kept changing to chit-chat about being a single professional, she realised there was a need for a dating agency designed for business people.
"I started this so I could meet people myself, and it has just taken off from there. My business has mainly grown from word-of-mouth," she added.
"I even had one man's accountant ask if he could join."