Saturday, December 01, 2012

Can You Give Me "Free Consulting"?. Oh, But Your Office Is Too Far Away, Can You Come To Me? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I received the following email from a friend who has had a successful career as a business consultant and now works for a very cool tech company.  She was seeking my advice on a networking and "helping another person" situation, and I felt the need to share this one here on my blog.  With her permission.. here it is:

Dear Thom,  
There is a man on the periphery of our social circle who is looking for a new job. In my estimation he is a taker. I have given him referrals during his previous job search and my husband has counseled him as well. We have never received anything in return from him or his family.  
He emailed me asking to get together to pick my brain on consulting. I offered to meet him for coffee near my office, which is an hour from where we both live. I see this as the equivalent of your 6am offer strategy and also the best time for me to give him my attention. He responded to my email today suggesting we chat by phone instead as driving an hour each way for coffee is inconvenient for him. Frankly, as a working parent of three, any time I give him is inconvenient.  
However, I feel sorry for him as I have heard from mutual friends that he and his family are in a tough spot financially. I welcome your advise.  
(name withheld) 
This made me smile as it happens all the time.  Someone reaches out to "pick your brain" (which translates to them wanting "free consulting") and then want you to come to them or meet them half way.  If this person really believed in his soul that her advice would be valuable in helping him launch a consulting practice, he would have happily driven the hour to meet near her office.  I have known of people that have purchased plane tickets and flown across the country for one hour of time with someone who they value.

My guess is this guy wanted to chat over coffee more to show his wife and himself that he is actively working to solve the career situation, not that he felt my friend could really help him take the leap into his own business (Oh, and she could help him.... as she is brilliant and experienced.  She is also a go-getter that would challenge him to do more!).

I offer up a 6 AM or 7 AM time slot at the Starbucks near my home for those who want to "Pick My Brain".  I like meeting people and love to help anyone who seeks advice.  But many tell me I am being unreasonable asking them to drive to my side of town (I live on the far southwest side of Austin, and for those who live north... it can be a hike).  While I will meet half way or set it around another meeting when I am north if there is a clear purpose for my involvement, I get lots of calls that are simply an invitation for the delivery of "free consulting".

If you are going to ask a person for a meeting you should be prepared to drive to any location they will be at any time they are available.  Additionally, look for a way to provide some value in return.  Buying the coffee or lunch is the first step, but seek ways to give something back.  There are lots of creative ways to make your meeting a "give and take".  One very giving person once sent me an iPod (back in the day when those where new) after I did them a very minor favor (made an introduction for them).  This person and I have now become great friends, partially because I discovered her focus on mutually beneficial business relationships!  A bottle of wine, a restaurant gift-card, or some social media love (tweets, FB praise, etc...) can go a long way when someone does you a favor.

Here is my prediction:  My friend will do a phone call with this man (maybe on her commute or on a Saturday morning)... and he will never properly show any appreciation or even acknowledge to their mutual friends how helpful and gracious she was in his time of need.  Its a shame, but that is how it usually goes.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer


Randy Streetman said...

I like how Jeffrey Gitomer responds when someone asks to take him to lunch so they can "pick his brain." He says, I have a $500 per hour "brain picking fee" and I buy lunch!

Julius Solaris said...

I usually redirect them to this video

or this post

Anonymous said...

The point that he will never say thank you or tell others how much she helped him is how it works with takers.

Unknown said...

If the man is unwilling to drive a bit to "pick a brain" then he is probably unwilling to do a good job for a new employer. Could that be the reason he is looking for a new job?

A Giver said...

Had a friend and client who I helped with a lot of free advice. Later when we had some difficulties in business she turned on me and totally forgot all I did to help. Those who are takers have short memories.

My Law License said...

This post encompasses so many things about relationships. There are moments where I say I am not going to give of my time to anyone anymore because the last 3 wasted it. Then there's the guy who asks me a couple questions over the phone and sends me a restaurant gift card with the note "I took time away from you that you could have been with your family, please take them to dinner with this."

It's not about the gift, it's about the value that the recipient of your free thoughts places on the time and effort.

I just had a guy send me a funny email. He asked to take me to lunch but he doesn't live close to me (I live in Miami, he in New York). He immediately said that while he wants to have lunch, geograhpy would be a problem so to give him the name of my favorite charity and he would make a donation for the time we spent with me giving him advice on a business he's trying to start for lawyers.

People who don't "get it" will never get it. They feel entitled. The problem is that you don't usually realize it until after you've given of your time.

Point is, maybe a good thing to ask is "what's the value to you of picking my brain?

Unknown said...

Sometimes people don't know how they can return the favor. As such, be bold and give them some suggestions during your meeting - directly or indirectly. That slight nudge may be all they need. Inaction is often the result of not knowing what action to take.