June 29th, 2009 | 1 Comment
I’ve been away from a traditional corporate structure long enough that I get surprised when things I thought died with the fax machine pop up again like some strain of indestructible weed.
The latest is what I call the stingy expert. You know this person: the genius with all the credentials from 10 to 20 years ago who can tell you exactly what is wrong with your business or strategy, but won’t offer any concrete information on what to do to improve things. You are supposed to sign on to that five- or six-figure retainer based on the guy’s (and it’s almost always a guy) charisma and guile.
It takes a lot of nerve, chutzpa, to do that kind of high-end carnival barking today. But, in the last week I’ve seen a couple examples of it. And, intelligent people being swayed by it. The cult of personality lives, and evidently in some quarters it still thrives.
I grew up with this philosophy of “don’t give away anything unless someone pays for it,” but when I started my own business 20 years ago, I rejected that notion. I figured I would have to prove – in very specific ways – that I can plan and execute a project for a potential client.
From the outset, I gave potential clients detailed descriptions of what I would do, how I’d do it, and what kind of results they could expect. It might seem like giving away the store, but I’ve had very few cases of people stealing my ideas. Those that did were not the kind of people I’d want to work for anyway. And, of course, there’s always the fact of execution – let’s see them fulfill my plan after they’ve ripped it off.
If you’re good at what you do, ideas and plans should not be a limited quantity – something to hold close to your vest. There should be more from where that came from. If someone is trying to sell you secrets that can’t be revealed until a contract is signed, it’s probably for a very good reason: He has something to hide.
If you know you have good ideas, be generous with them to people you respect and trust. Give them out for free, and you’re likely to get more than your share in return.