I made an announcement less than a month ago that sent shockwaves through my network. I announced that I would be moving towards a model of limited clients and group based formats for Small Business Owners. This wasn't a faux scarcity play, this was based on doing a real deep dive into my business and understanding the best use of my time. The double edge sword of being a face in the community of entrepreneurship is that the expectation that your help, mentorship, and advice should always be free is tough. I have spent countless hours advising and giving tips to everyone I meet- scoffing at those who would charge for a coffee meeting. As 2018 progressed, I didn't charge for coffee meetings, did tons of free strategy sessions, and watched as entrepreneurs began to take more and more from me. I didn't try to sell, bully, or trick people into financing unnecessary coaching.
I let go of toxic partnerships- or relationships where the referral fee was more important than the client, and took extra steps to see beyond smoke and mirrors and evaluate technical and execution abilities of those I chose do to business with.
There comes a certain point, where the expectations within the entrepreneurial system at times become particularly one sided. I started having people calling, texting, and emailing for immediate responses on their business plans- with the expectation that I would "do them a solid". There comes a point where as a Strategist - you have to rethink and reset boundaries and expectations. I am 100% committed to sharing stories and tools with the community, but it became a question of one to one -or one to many.
This was tough for me- I had always lived by the philosophy that I wasn't Warren Buffet, and therefore I did't have the right to say No yet. However, once it became clear that I was being used and that the expectations for mentorship and advisory became overwhelming- I had to make my stance known. I devised a plan that would allow me to work with a few startups at a time, keep my corporate recurring clients, and give back through free workshops that I had been doing for Wix.com.
I had launched the Pay It Forward program last year, where an aspiring or entrepreneur who might be struggling could receive assistance, but only after they had volunteered at a charity I supported. This way, they had to give time in order to get it. Not surprisingly- only 1 out of every 25 entrepreneurs that I met followed through. Meaning, that while they expected my time, effort, and energy for free- they were't willing to invest any to help anyone else.
As a result, notifying my network in my change of business model wasn't easy. In fact, I received countless e-mails and texts telling me that this was a "mistake" and more importantly that I have abandoned my Entrepreneurial community.
I even got some angry messages from startups that state that they "couldn't believe" I was now charging a whopping $149 for an advisory session. Mind you, these people made thousands from my advice and concrete suggestions without so much as a thanks.
It made me sad considering that I had gotten some of these companies funded, helped them create revenue streams that they hadn't even considered, and added thousands of dollars into their pipelines. One company in particular, I had introduced them to a corporate contact- where they earned more than $45K for an event. I didn't ask for a referral fee - I just made the intro- it's who I am. However, to not even receive a thank you was not acceptable. Maybe, my business love language is praise- but I think manners matter now more than ever.
Something occurred to me then, that I will share with you now. I have no time for Entitled Entrepreneurs. The people that take from you- and offer no shared value in return. The people who generate revenue from your ideas and strategies and don't even offer to buy you a cup of coffee. I am glad you are gone. We have met these people at networking events handing out their business cards like it's a game of poker - or a contest to see how many they can give away.
It's hard to make changes that you know will create waves. It's scary. You know you have to brace for impact- but aren't sure how bad it will get.
As for me, because of these changes, I was able to stay home with my family and children this holiday season. I was able to see smiling faces, play games with family and enjoy the sweetness of nothing. This reaffirms my belief that whatever you do- you have to do it- without fear of what anyone else thinks.
As for my Entitled Entrepreneurs and Emotional Vampires- may you find yourselves a new host in 2019.