I've discovered that I have what is known as a portfolio career. I didn't know that until last week, but apparently that is what I have. For others who haven't heard of it before, it is one whereby you do a variety of different jobs or skills, all of which you should love (otherwise you might as well just to do one thing you hate full time!)
The common theme through my 'portfolio' is that of helping people. While pondering this I realised that while we all like to help people we usually wait to be asked. And one thing we tend not to do is ask for help when we need it. Hm... a bit of tricky situation there then.
I do a fair amount of business networking to help my businesses grow and develop. The main questions we ask of our networking colleagues are, 'How can I help you?' and 'What are you looking for to help you develop your business?'
How many people right now could do with some help in their job, career or business venture? Would they tell you if they did need help? Would they ask you for help directly? Probably not. But I'm sure that if you knew more about what they did you would be more than happy to refer people to them who could benefit from what they offer.
Would you rather a large corporate, or even a small business owner who is a complete stranger to you benefit from your custom? Or would you prefer to help a friend out in their business? How would you feel if a friend was struggling, or worse, lost their business or job, and then you realised that whatever they were involved in, you could have helped them out by using them instead of another company, tradesperson etc.?
As a trainer with a major network marketing company I, and my colleagues often find a common theme of discussion at trainings. That discussion centres around individuals wondering why on earth some of their nearest and dearest won't try the services they are offering, when they will so clearly benefit from them. They feel as though some of their closest friends and family are saying that they don't trust them when they recommend what we have to offer. This doesn't just happen in our business, or even in our industry, it can be just the same for employed people. To be honest, many people don't even know what their friends or family actually do for a living, let alone know whether they could give them their custom.
For anyone who has ever been in this situation, in any type of business or job, I would like to set your mind at rest as to why it might be that someone close to you isn't one of your customers even when you have explained how it could benefit them. I have heard it said many times by a very eloquent speaker that I know and have the pleasure of working with, “No-one wants to be a part of your experiment” and this may be one explanation, especially if you are just starting out. However, I think that in some cases it can be that no-one wants to be a part of your failure. Now that isn't to say that if you're just starting out in a new venture, or even if you have been in business or your job a while, that you are going to be a failure. It simply means that they are thinking,
'As your parent/sibling/friend, I don't want to use you for XYZ or buy your product because if you were to fail in this venture, I would have been a part of it and as I'd been a customer of yours I would have been endorsing your failure. That would hurt me because I care about you too much so I'd rather not be involved at all'
To be honest this is probably very subconscious and they don't even realise they are thinking it.
Sometimes it can be quite different however. Chatting with a friend in my networking team a couple of months ago he told me an interesting story about a friend of his who he fell out with. My colleague had started working in our business and wanted to help this friend out by showing him how he could save some money at home. The friend took umbrage at this and thought it was terrible that he was 'selling' to friends. Interesting, he would rather pay through the nose for something to a large faceless corporate stranger than save some money and see his friend be successful in his business? Wow!
I think it's time to have a re-think. I think that we should encourage and support our friends and family and do all we can to help them succeed, especially in such trying economic times. We probably do just this in daily life and family stuff anyway, we just don't think about it from a work or business point of view.
So here's the challenge: We are coming up to a time when alot of socialising is done. You will probably meet up with people you haven't seen for a long time and maybe meet new people at Christmas and new year events. You will undoubtedly ask them how work is going, and do you think some people might be having a tough time,whether they are self employed, a business owner or an employee? Would you like to be a part of their success?
Why not make the time to ask your friend or relative to tell you more about what they do and how they are looking to grow their business in 2011. Then ask them questions such as:
'How can I help you?'
'What would be your ideal customer?'
'What type of business are you looking for?'
'Maybe I might know someone or could keep an eye out for opportunities for you, let me take a couple of your cards or your email address so that I can let you know if I do'.
Maybe this person could help you out now, or at some point in the future. Can you support them in their business or job by giving them your custom?
Wouldn't it be nice to know that you could be a part of helping them through a tough time. Wouldn't it be nice for them to know that you care? Wouldn't you rather help them to succeed than a stranger?
Let's help each other to be more successful.