The worst advice I have ever received is: "Accept every opportunity that comes you way". This adviser went on to say you have to always say yes because you are your meal ticket.
In all honesty, I took this advice and lived it for more than 1 year before I listened to my own experience and changed my way of thinking. I found myself in back to back client meetings, on endless committees, several board seats, at plethora of mentoring events and speaking engagements. All great things right? Yes, but no one actually knew what I did because I was everywhere for everything. There were no intentional movements, no common themes, no deeper meanings. After nearing burnout, I found a simple and powerful word, NO!
Being able to say no has nothing to do with not being open to opportunity or being too good to participate, its about priorities. Your goals have to be clear and your focus on them has to be equally clear. Since my bout of "busyness" here are a few of the tips I use for decide whether to say yes or no:
With these 3 tips here is how I decide if I say yes or no. Here is my flow chart:
As always check your work. From time to time I find myself to trying to skirt that last point because I am a curious soul. It is okay to do OCCASIONALLY as long as you are honest that it is really not your area. If you need to decline try to be specific about why you are declining and don't be shy about connecting them to quality people in your network to fulfill their need.
Finally, you don't have to take my word for it. Take a look at a quote from the master entrepreneur, Steve Jobs.
Who was the first person to record sound? Thomas Edison? NOPE! It was In 1857 by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. He was a French inventor that was interested in what sound looks like. He was able to etch the sound of a popular folk song on glass because he was interested in how the sound looked. He never cared to hear the etching. Then comes along Edison (and TEAM) nearly 20 years later with his phonograph. Once the application of music was applied... it was a hit!
So what is the lesson here? What good is an invention if you never discover who would want it. The French inventor once he heard of Edison's phonograph begin saying I did it first. It did not matter because Edison was the person to find an application that people wanted.
One of the most critical things an entrepreneur or business can do is identify who their product appeals to. When you believe that you have an idea or business that is revolutionary remember to ask WHO CARES.
One way to do this is to use the problem-solution formatting. What is the problem? How is this a solution? When identifying your problem be sure to ask for whom is this a problem. As long as you can identify at least one set of constituents (individuals or businesses) then you may move forward. Here is a helpful hint : Everyone is not an acceptable answer EVER!
The next question that you need to ask is: Will those affected be able to use my solution?
Here is a simplified example of I like to use to illustrate how there could be a disconnect.
Problem: "People should pull themselves up by their bootstraps"
Solution: I will make and sell boot straps
Issue: The people who you'd like to pull themselves up have no boots... so the straps will not solve their problem.
While this seems like a crazy analogy it shows how you can have a solution that does not touch the people who would care.
Always remember to have a specific audience to start. You can not be everything to everyone so choose a few relevant applications and then of course test and get feedback!
Anyone who knows me will tell you a mantra that I have had is "I don't work for free". I have held fast to this rule ever since I graduated from high school. Then something magical happened I CHANGED. I firmly believe that experts deserve to be paid for their expertise but don't exchange short term payment for long term gain. The short term gain may be a few quick dollars but in the end you may have forgone a much more lucrative long-term relationship.
Here are a few tips that I use when deciding when to hide behind the pay wall.
Free Consultations for All!
Whether 30 minutes or 1 hour take the time meet with potential clients for FREE! I have read several posts and commentaries suggesting that you should charge for the "pick your brain sessions". I would agree that if people are using lunch as an excuse not to pay you then you are in a different situation. However, this is not typically the case. I find that many people are curious about what I do or my journey or whether I am the right person for them to trust with their ideas. I agree that time is money however, we have to create space to build "client-expert" relationships. I also contend that we as citizens in a larger community should pass on the knowledge we have gained as our great gift to society. I am perpetually thankful to all of the men and women who took their time and shared their wisdom with me. It has shown me new ways of thinking and different perspectives. I am willing to share with anyone who seeks knowledge. Be sure to schedule these in. Tip: I set aside a few hours each week to do consultations. This may mean that the person seeking my thoughts have to wait a week or two but I have adequately planned for the time and they will get my best.
Do Not Charge for Free things!
If you can very easily google it do not simple create a booklet and charge people for it. If there is a process that exists as a free service charging the ill-informed is simply wrong. While you may get the $5.99 for your e-book you lose credibility with your peers. .Exploitation is not how you want to grow your business. If you have not added some additional nuance or guidance then there is no product. Get rich quick schemes will catch up to you in the end.
Define Your Services!
If you know what you provide it is easy to know what to charge for. After a consultation you should be able to easily identify the potential client's need. This requires you to ask questions and listen. This is where having defined services come in. You should be able to look at what you can provide and what expertise that you have, if there are overlaps this where you begin quoting prices and charging for a project. You also have one additional obligation... send the client to someone else if this is not your area. At the very least pull in an expert so that you can learn and deliver a quality product. If you have to pass it on remember these referrals tend to be rewarded with referrals. If it does not then who cares you met another human and frankly its part of the cost of doing business.
It is my belief that there is no harm in sharing information. I give away information firmly believing karma will take care of the rest. Do good and good will be done to you.
Dr. Shante Williams is a serial entrepreneur who started slow and in the shallow end of the business pool. She has worked in Biotech, Big Pharma, Green Energy, and Academia