Hook-ups are a negative ROI for the time, energy and money you have invested in developing yourself: Entrepreneurs with service business are especially at-risk for subtle hook-ups: The kind that sneak up on you. Has anyone ever asked to just “pick your brain,” “ask a quick question,” or take you to lunch or dinner?
If you oblige any of these requests, be aware of what you are doing. If you are deliberately taking a little time to mentor someone or be helpful, then wrap up the conversation after a few minutes of lending your advice and only share basic information. Just as in the case of a product business, there is a real cost to giving someone a hook-up in this situation.
You have paid with your time, energy and money for the education, insight and experience that enable you to whip out those answers with lightning fast speed. You see it as “no big deal” because you do it so easily, but there is a value associated with your time and knowledge, and you should bill for it. Every time you take 30 minutes or an hour to consult with someone whom you’re not mentoring for free by answering all their questions and pouring out ideas, you are taking time away from a paying client or your time to market to paying clients. This creates a negative Return On Investment (ROI). You are not gaining value for your current activity; in fact you are losing value.
Hook-ups are a detrimental action that signal to your sub-conscious that you don’t have a real business: Have you ever gone to meet someone you had never seen before, but you somehow knew who they were once you were at the meeting place? Have you ever begin singing along with a song that you can’t re-call ever having heard but you somehow knew the words or at least the beat? Or, have you ever had “a feeling” that something bad or good was going to happen and it did? That was your sub-conscious. Our brains and sub-conscious are incredibly efficient and informed as a result of years and years of cognitive processing based on input from many different experiences and environments, some of which we are aware of but most of which we are not.
Every one of us has dealt with a “real” business. We know how they operate. We understand the difference between sales, coupons and specials versus hook-ups. We understand this on a conscious level but also on a sub-conscious level. Since you have dealt with serious or “real” businesses before, you know whether you are operating one. As I am referring to “hook-ups,” I am not talking about strategic marketing tactics like trial offers or complimentary upgrades as a customer service perk; I’m talking about freebies or gratuitous discounts. Every time you give someone a hook-up your sub-conscious is registering the difference between the feeling at your business compared to the feeling at a real business.
If you’ve done this over time and you now feel less motivated and more irritated, and you have begun to question why you started a business or whether you made a mistake, this has a lot to do with why.
I know it can be a challenge to avoid hook-ups because you love your friends and family. You don’t want to turn someone away and you don’t want to seem mean and selfish. But you must set clear parameters for the difference between doing business and giving back. Yes, help out loved ones when you can afford to do so, schedule community service and give charitable contributions. But at all other times when you are working to create a lasting business, take the FREE sign down.
Are you an entrepreneur who has struggled with saying “no” to the hook-ups, or have you found a way to politely let people know that you’re in the business of making money? Leave you comments below.
Felicia Joy is a nationally recognized entrepreneur who created $50 million in value for the various organizations and companies she served in corporate America before launching her business enterprise. She is the author of Hybrid Entrepreneurship: How the Middle Class Can Beat the Slow Economy, Earn Extra Income and Reclaim the American Dream and has appeared on CNN, FOX and in other national press. Felicia operates Ms. CEO Inc., a company that helps women entrepreneurs achieve more success, faster—as well as Joy Group International, LLC, a business development and consulting firm. Follow her on Twitter @feliciajoy and see her entrepreneurship columns each week on BlackEnterprise.com.