Treading the line between charity and support

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How often do you have coffee with someone that you’ve met networking and the whole of that time is all about them and using that time to get your take on things, your advice and guidance? And then a few months later they suggest that you get together again because they think there are potential opportunities to work together and the same things happen… Based on what others have said I don’t think it’s only me that’s had this experience …

And the thing is I’m a great believer in meeting people and, as one of my mentors has always promoted, I’m very happy to give away my best stuff for free… but there is a fine line between charity and support and I think as business owners we sometimes lose sight of that.

And blurring that line can have all sorts of implications…

  • If we keep giving for free to the same person are they valuing what we share? Sometimes free advice is valued more than cheap advice but do others see the real value of what we are sharing and giving?
  • Is there a reciprocal arrangement that can be in place? Would the other person be prepared to do something that has equal value to our business?
  • What happens if something doesn’t go quite right, do we then end up being the person who gave the bad advice or suggested action?
  • If what they really want is a mentor then what would the arrangement look like? Set boundaries for what you’re prepared to do and also discuss accountability – it would be futile to be a mentor without there being some accountability.
  • And make a contract with yourself about how much time you’re prepared to give to for free and that includes any other volunteer roles that you have with other organisations.
All things of course have payback but altruism doesn’t pay the bills, it can help fuel you but there has to be a balance. And there’s a danger that your own business development time is spent on someone else’s business instead. So just check in when you say ‘yes’ to those chats… how many will you have and where’s the line between support and charity? And yes, I am doing this too…

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