Give and, erm, give

By Martin Dower

I was recently sat in a client meeting with an agency and it became clear they needed my help, or more accurately, my company’s help. They were struggling with the world of digital services and they were stuck. I could tell they wanted to ask for my help but at the same time I could sense some nervousness around cost, or “how would that work”. As the meeting went on they made a fairly clumsy offer of paying for my time but immediately wanted to quantify the outcome and value.

It’s nice to be valued, but starting off on this foot felt wrong. I could have easily taken advantage of their inexperience, except that was not why I was there. I liked the agency from the off (unusual for me) and they had created the time to talk to me – they had already invested in me. This was quite clearly a company I was keen to work with.

Over the years I’ve learnt that if you help people then great things can come about. This doesn’t always work out, some folks will simply take and take and take but they’re easy to spot and turn down. It might seem very unbusiness-like to give stuff away for free and I’m sure I’ve missed out revenue opportunities over the years. Except, I’ve not been in business for 20 years by living off “revenue opportunities” – I’ve made a sensible living, building a stable and happy business by working with people to cure, largely, common problems with a dose of experience, some collaboration and a heavy blast of trust.

This article on Quartz, then, caught my eye as the premise is that to earn the most you ask for the least. It’s deeply ingrained in me and not everyone seems to understand it. I rely a lot on my experience and a knack of sort of making it fit well into most scenarios, it’s nothing special but I do work hard keeping up with technology, trends and seem to have been lucky picking the right stuff to back over the years. (note: I have also made some horrendous calls but the less said about those the better). The knowledge and experience, once dispensed to a client or a colleague or a partner is not lost from me, I’ve not used it up so I can’t use it again – far from it, in most cases exercising the sharing knowledge muscle actually improves my understanding and therefore it’s value.

Going back to the potential agency client – so I’ve offered to help them as much as they need and they can relax about costs or raising purchase orders. If they take the mickey then I’ll politely say no. Maybe one day they’ll need something that I can charge for but even if that doesn’t happen if they have similar values then they may pay it forward and someone else will gain.