I don't think anyone will disagree when I say that time is the most precious asset of any small business owner
So when the phone rings, or you get cornered at networking events, and someone utters the words: "Could I just pick your brains for a minute?" – alarm bells should start ringing. Loudly.
If youre a coach, consultant or trainer, your brains have cost you a lot of time, energy and money to develop. Youre in business and people should pay for whats in those brains!
Youve probably already come across that group of people who dont seem to realise that were in business to make a profit and to pay our bills. Its true we enjoy doing what we do, but working for ourselves also means taking total responsibility for earning every penny, but this group dont think like that. I accept that there are subscribers to my newsletter and readers of this blog who are members of that group and who will never hire me, but thats OK because I genuinely enjoy sharing what I write here.
Now, if you have a blog and a newsletter, perhaps a podcast or teleclasses too - then youre already providing great free resources for all to access, so dont feel guilty if you dont say yes to every request for free advice.
To weed out time-wasters, who may not immediately be identifiable as such, you need to adopt a special process. Heres what I mean.
I invite all my newsletter subscribers to a free Strategy Session call - which they only find out about if they read the follow-up emails. Next, I ask them to answer a few questions about their business, which requires a bit of work on their part. Im only interested in working with business owners who are serious about succeeding and prepared to make the effort.
What Im suggesting is that you treat the pick your brains enquiries the same way. Say that you dont have time just now (dont fall for the itll only take a minute of your time wheeze, because before you know it 30 minutes will have disappeared). Invite them to book an appointment a couple of days from now (try using an online scheduler like www.Tungle.me) but only AFTER they have answered your introductory questions, which are on a page of your website you can easily direct them to.
While this may not deter all time-wasters, it does seem to discourage the brain-picking variety! Dont worry about putting off genuine enquirers; when people are serious about their business theyll be happy to answer a few questions in return for some of your precious time.
Id just like to add that theres obviously a big difference between sharing ideas and advice with friends and colleagues whom you value and respect, and the one-way information leech of time-wasters.
Â© Louise Barnes-Johnston, 2010
For further information & advice on any of the above, please contact Louise Barnes-Johnston, Simply Business Coaching. You can also find me blogging at Savvy Marketers.