Where do you stand on giving it away? Most everyone agrees that doing volunteer work for your community or school, for example, is a noble and worthwhile thing to do. But what about in business? Big companies can afford to give away things, from software to trips to Hawaii, but what about us little guys/gals? There are those who say that as a highly-skilled professional, you should not "give it away" by agreeing to offer your services unpaid. You've worked hard to get where you are today, they say, and you deserve to be paid for your time. They say offering your skills for free cheapens what you have to offer. There is some merit to these arguments, but I believe in the idea of "giving it away" when I can.
"Eat like a bird and poop like an elephant"
My philosophy about "giving it away" or sharing information freely relates well to an idea I first read in Rules for Revolutionaries. I recall reading this book by Guy Kawasaki in 1998 while on the bullet train bound for Tokyo. In chapter seven Guy says "Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant." In other words, (1) get out there, meet people, press the flesh, consume knowledge like crazy, attend seminars, etc. (birds eat a lot!). And (2) spread the knowledge, information, and contacts that you gained around, share of your time and talent (elephants are good at...well you know). Below: sample slides from a past presentation where I talked about Kawasaki's idea.
I may be naïve, but my philosophy concerning public speaking has long been to remain open to non-paid opportunities, outside the business world, if I can actually be of help. Doing "free gigs" does not lower the value of what I usually "sell." In fact, doing the unpaid work outside of business probably adds value to my "brand" so to speak. My thinking is that discounting my services, say, to an investment firm, may indeed cheapen my brand. So I don't do that. However, I do not think doing some (sometimes more) work 100% free of charge cheapens what you have to offer, depending on the circumstance. Discounts cheapen, but free is free — and some of the best things in life are free. (They don't say, "Some of the best things in life are...discounted 50%"). Selling yourself (too) "cheap" is different from "giving it away." For example, Starbucks is not going to discount their drinks, but maybe they'll give free hot chocolates on Christmas Eve evening in certain stores for tired, procrastinating shoppers.
"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable."
— Sydney J. Harris
"I poop therefore, I am"
You can't share everything, of course, but I like the spirit behind "pooping" (sharing and spreading). For all the free gigs I do, I always get something out of it such as a new contact, new knowledge, a recommendation, etc. As Guy says: "I poop therefore, I am. The more information you give away, the more you get as people come to trust you and see mutual benefits." I have never regretted doing a free presentation. Years ago I used to seek out speaking opportunities at business associations, user groups, etc. so that I could improve my skills and learn. Now I no longer look for opportunities to present free, but I usually end up "giving it away" several times a year anyway. And that's fine with me.
"Pooping" this Friday in Kobe, Japan
This Friday I will be "giving it away" again at the Far East Headquarters of P&G out in Kobe for a special ACCJ event. For those of you in the area (Kansai), you can get more information on my presentation by contacting the people at ACCJ here. Or send me an email and I'll forward you the ACCJ announcement (in English and Japanese). My presentation begins at 5:30 pm in the P&G auditorium. At about 7:00 pm interested audience members can join ACCJ at the Sheraton next door for a mixer. The title of the talk is "The Art of Presentations," covering some of the same issues I explore in this blog.
Do you have any stories about how the "eat like a bird, poop like an elephant" philosophy has helped (hurt?) you, either as a person or organization?