Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No charge.... really... no charge... happy to do it!

A bunch of years ago a couple of my associates and I decided to start up a new real estate company.  Now the Albany area already had a bunch of real estate companies, so why?  We were leading the way for two things...  Understanding and advocating buyer representation AND the "un-bundling" of services.  When we went public that October Real Estate Group was actually open we got a call.  A very surprising and unexpected call.  Bob Howard, President and CEO of Bob Howard Real Estate was on the line. Bob Howard was one of the largest and most successful real estate owners we had seen around here.  He instructed my partner to call his executive VP and General Manager and tell him we were to have access to his storage garage in Delmar.  In that garage was all sorts of office stuff...  desks, phones, file cabinets, chairs...  We were to be able to take whatever we thought would be helpful.  "Oh, and all the best of luck to you folks... I admire what you're doing." When I saw him a few weeks later and asked him why, he just smiled and said, "I hope you will do something like this for someone else someday."

We were blown away.  And to this day when I see Bob, I remind him of his generosity that helped us get started. (Incidentally when I do, he usually holds his hand up as if to say, 'Please... don't mention it" and just smiles)  October Real Estate Group enjoyed an eleven year ride and certainly some measurable success... thanks in part to unsolicited help from a self made man who seems to just "get it".

So I just read this article by Jeff Haden for Inc.  And you know what?  I could not have said it better... so I'm sharing it with you!

If you don’t devote a small percentage of your time to working for free, you’re making a mistake.

Most entrepreneurs don’t do pro bono work.

(By pro bono I don’t mean for charity, I mean for another entrepreneur.)

A friend swears “pro bono” is Latin for “no way.” He says, “I’m against the idea of anyone working for free. As a more colorful person said, there are two kinds of articles on Huffington Post: Those that shouldn’t be written at all, and those that are too good to give away. I don’t think anyone should give away their profession.”

You probably agree. You invested significant time and money into your business or profession. You provide value.You should receive value in return. But sometimes free is valuable.

Aside from simply doing something nice for the sake of doing something nice (which has a value all its own) here are other reasons why occasionally working for free—or for a big discount—can still provide value to you in return:

You get to stretch. Your processes are solid. Your operations are optimized. You’re a fine-tuned machine. You’re also a little stale and stuck in your ways.

People who can’t afford to pay you often have, um, unusual needs. Unlike most of your clients, they’re struggling. Help them and you’ll see and do some things you would otherwise never experience. Not only will you benefit from what you learn, so will all your other customers.
And you might discover opportunities you never knew existed.

You get to be scared. It’s easy to forget how fortunate you are. Help a person whose business is on the brink of failing and you’ll remember the true meaning of “urgent.” The experience will help ground you… and help you see your own business from a different perspective.

You get to be creative. A person who needs help does not deal from a position of strength. Your standard techniques or strategies don’t apply. You’ll need to find new ways to leverage limited resources and transform weaknesses into strong points.

You get to flex an atrophied muscle. You’re successful. You have a team and infrastructure in place. You can throw money at certain problems. You can call in favors. Some customers do business with you just because it’s comfortable.

People who need help have none of that going for them. Often they’ve made poor decisions and have limited choices. The only approach that might work is a practical approach. Using common sense and finding creative solutions are core strengths for a good entrepreneur—exercise those muscles.

You get to do the right thing. No, you can’t help everyone. No, you can’t give all your time away.
Yes, you can help a few people who really need help—just like, somewhere along the way, someone went out of his way to help you. You remember how that felt. Pass it on.

You get to be a hero. You rarely get feedback when performing well is an expectation. Help someone who needs a hand and their thanks will be sincere and heartfelt.

Can’t beat that.

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