Never Take Something Free That You Wouldn’t Pay For.
The other day an entrepreneur and I were talking at a networking event. I gave some advice that they got very excited about. I liked their product and they seemed very coachable. So I gave them a name of a good mentor of mine who I thought would be a great advisor and a good potential investor. They then reached out to to me on LinkedIn and via email and actually asked for coaching.
This was great since I do offer coaching and that’s why I network: to find people who can use my coaching. So I told them my rate and the response was: “can I see your website, do you have references, have you worked on consumer products, can you tell me what advice you would start off with.”
I was shocked. This person wanted me to coach them for free and when I told them that my time has monetary value, they suddenly decided to “check my credentials”. It’s pretty absurd if you think about it. They were going to spend time with me and take my advice when it was free, but when they would have to pay they would suddenly want to make sure that that the advice is legitimate.
I was going to answer in a long and complicated email but I’m older and wiser and less patient for things like that. I decided to sit on it for a few hours and let them think about what they just did. Then in the evening I wrote them a single line: “Never take for free what you wouldn’t pay for” and then I sent them a link to a good friend who has a great website and specializes in executive coaching.
Could I convince them? Yes. Could I use the money? Yes. Could I take it? Yes. Will I? No.
It was a test. You see I have decided to help only a specific kind of company, a company that would help us stop climate change. That is my mission and that is the best use of my time and talents. But I was going to consider helping this person even though the product had nothing to do with climate change. I entertained helping this person because I could use the money and I liked them and their product.
I was going to compromise my mission and I knew it. On the one hand their response completely turned me off from wanting to help them, but on another and more important hand their response also helped me stay true to my cause.
Even though I have time and bandwidth, every project we take on is an investment of time and energy. It is an opportunity that I don’t look out for and a business I may not help that is inline with my mission.
I truly hope they succeed. I truly like their idea and hope something becomes of it. I do not plan to be a part of it because I have a mission, and life has in store something else for me. Never take for free something you wouldn’t pay for and never take money for something that you wouldn’t do for free.