01 Jun 2012

Straight to the Heart

Matchmaker and best-selling author Rachel Greenwald wrote the book on finding love
Re: Brad Greenwald (MBA 1990)
by Julia Hanna


The veteran of several high-level marketing positions, Rachel Greenwald (MBA 1993) eventually sought a more flexible career to accommodate the balancing act of raising three children. Married to Brad Greenwald (MBA 1990), the Denver native decided that a career in writing would offer the best chance to create her own schedule. But what to write about?

After keeping a detailed “happiness” journal for one week, Greenwald realized that her most enjoyable moments were spent counseling a friend on her dating life. So she combined that passion with her business acumen and wrote the 2003 best-seller Find a Husband after 35: Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School. Now translated into 20 languages, the book advocates her straightforward, 15-step program to find a mate, using familiar marketing tactics such as packaging, branding, and, yes, even telemarketing. Greenwald wrote another best-selling book in 2009, Have Him at Hello: Confessions from 1,000 Guys about What Makes Them Fall in Love…or Never Call Back.

Over the past decade, Greenwald has also built a business as a matchmaker and dating coach to both sexes and has seen a resulting 750 marriages. Featured widely as a dating expert in the media and as a Huffington Post blogger, she recently won the NBC reality TV show competition The Match Off.

Popular culture emphasizes the power of fate and serendipity in finding love. How do you respond to those who find your proactive approach too contrived?

If there’s one pet peeve I have after 10 years in the love business, it’s people’s complete faith in fate. Hollywood films contribute to this notion of waiting to be in the right place at the right time. We’re a proactive society, built on taking matters into our own hands and not accepting our fate. So when it comes to love, we should sit around and look to the stars? That’s crazy. You’ve heard the expression, “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation”? That’s my philosophy.

I think about all the angst around deciding about the first job to take, post-HBS. It’s nothing compared to the decision of who to marry! You can do many things to change your professional circumstances, but there’s no school or program to learn how to make the most important decision in your life. That’s the point at which I started to think about how there needs to be more education about how to date well so that you make an informed, intelligent decision.

Some of us have tried our hand at amateur matchmaking, often with mixed success. What makes you more successful?

The truism “opposites attract” is something everyone has heard, but it’s forgotten in amateur matchmaking. People base their setups on similarities, not complementary differences. That creates commonality but no spark. You may think you want someone to share all of your favorite things, but over time it’s like dating yourself. The energy and freshness come from being with someone different. I look for qualities in two people that will complement, not mirror, one another.

When I begin with a new client, I ask him or her to connect me to six friends or family who will give me feedback on why they think the client hasn’t found his or her mate yet, so I can quickly get in-depth emotional indicators. Those sources will say things to me that they would never say to the client. That feedback is a confidential, incredibly powerful process that allows me to have insight into what the person needs, which is often very different from what that person wants.

You have been credited with 750 marriages. Is your long-term success rate better than the national average?

I don’t have quantitative data on my divorce rate, but I’m going to guess that my rate is significantly lower, only because first-time marriages among people over 30 (to which my clients skew) have a lower divorce rate nationally than those who marry under 30.

The love business is not quantitative at all, actually. I don’t even have written contracts with clients. I do handshakes. I believe in karma. We have a verbal agreement that lays out what I charge and each party’s responsibilities. If someone doesn’t honor that, goodbye and good luck. I don’t want their money.

Your book emphasizes the importance of marketing tactics in finding a mate, including the need for a personal brand.

A personal brand is something that everyone needs, whether you’re single or married. Otherwise, you become just another commodity. There are 50 million people dating online—you need to stand out and be memorable. But your personal brand can’t be aspirational. It needs to fit with who you really are and also express differentiation. And obviously, having a personal brand crosses over to our professional lives, whether the goal is finding a job, developing new clients, or attracting investments to your start-up.

What is your personal brand?

Insightful, resourceful, romantic.

HBS marketing professor Ted Levitt famously posed the question, “What business are you really in?” How would you respond?

When people come to a matchmaker, their natural expectation is “find me the person I’m looking for.” That is not at all what I consider to be my job. I’m in the happiness business, which is very different from the dating or matchmaking business. Often I help clients find love in a different package than they envisioned initially, but they end up happy.

Can you explain?

Last week I had a very successful CEO come to me and ask for help in finding a particular type of woman. We started off with a phone conversation, and I got further feedback from his family and friends. Then he flew out to Denver and spent the day with me. What became very clear is that he did not need a matchmaker. He was still in love with his ex-girlfriend, but she was so different from him that he had come to believe in his analytical brain that it wouldn’t work.

I told him, “I think if I get the two of you in a room together, we can figure this out.” The weight of the world came off his shoulders. Of course I just talked myself out of a lucrative matchmaking job, but that’s OK—I’m in the happiness business.

The matchmaking profession is in its infancy but growing quickly. What’s driving that trend?

People have realized through the recession that they can lose their job, they can lose their home, but there can still be “life stability” if they have a great spouse. They’ll be OK if they have love. I’ve had people come to me who are forgoing their Starbucks latte but are still willing to pay $10,000 to hire a matchmaker.

There’s also a backlash against online dating. I’m actually a big fan and recommend that clients date online while I’m also fixing them up. Volume is really important. But the explosion of online dating means that people are also looking for more personal attention to help them sort through that volume. Some people say that outsourcing your love life deletes romance. Not at all. The romance isn’t in the search. The romance is in the results.

You offer small-group training workshops to those who are interested in getting into the matchmaking business.

Yes, I’ve been doing that for the past two years. In fact, I recently trained someone from as far away as Australia. It’s an ongoing training relationship; I refer clients to them and take a small percentage of their income.

We often don’t know if we’ll have chemistry with someone until we meet in person. What is your strategy when it comes to making the Internet work for your clients?

People think online dating is an efficient way to get to know someone, and it’s not. It’s just an efficient way to meet someone. It’s a means to an end, similar to Craigslist. People don’t spend a lot of time corresponding on Craigslist. They set up a mutually agreeable time to see the merchandise! I also do a lot of coaching on social media. You absolutely need to have a Facebook presence with just as good a photo as you would use on an online dating site. You need to have a cohesive online presence that promotes your personal brand and to make sure that your status updates are appropriate. If you’re a die-hard Republican, and all of your posts are political, you may turn off some people who don’t share your beliefs. You may think that’s OK, but in fact you could be losing the opposite point of view that creates the spark I mentioned earlier.

Tell me about one of your more unlikely matchmaking successes.

One of my clients, an HBS alum from New York, was the ultimate package: good-looking, smart, successful. He was constantly being fixed up but hadn’t found anyone he wanted to marry. He came to me with a list of 20 qualities he wanted in a woman. I told him, “I’m not going to find you a more perfect woman than all the women you’ve been dating, but I will find you someone who makes you happy.” Then I made him pick only one nonnegotiable quality from his list that he needed to have in his future wife. He finally chose “Christian.”

After six months, he had dated several of my fix-ups, but he was still looking. Then at my college reunion, I met a woman with a single friend in New York. Her friend sounded absolutely perfect for my client, except that she was Jewish. But despite the fact that she didn’t meet his one nonnegotiable requirement, I asked my client if he would be willing just to meet her once. And that’s who he later married. They’re still happily married today.

I love that story because it reinforces something I’ve seen again and again: The person you fall in love with often comes in a completely different package than the one you were expecting. Sometimes the only thing holding you back from finding the right person is that your happiness is not in the form that you visualize. You need to change your lens.

What do you make of the growing numbers of people who live alone?

There’s a big difference between living alone and choosing to live alone. The statistics are misleading because they imply that all of those people who live alone are actively choosing to do so. Much of what is being written now argues that people are retreating from social overload, which underscores what I mentioned earlier about choosing a mate who is your opposite. The fallacy of living alone is that people think it’s the only way to get enough “me” time to do their own thing, when in fact, if you choose the right person you can have many of the same independence benefits within the construct of a marriage and a family. Brad is very athletic and outdoorsy, so he heliskis with his dad and brother. I like documentary movies, and my girlfriends and I go to film festivals.

What are some of your favorite love stories?

One is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, which most of us know as a children’s book. Another is A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias. It describes a 30-year marriage, and it’s not all roses. When people date, they don’t always think about what love is going to look like 30, 40, or 50 years from now. This book is incredibly romantic because it shows the power of enduring love with all of its ups and downs. You’ve got to read it.

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1993, Section D

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