Imbalanced ‘Strategic’ Partnerships


If you’re starting up in business or feeling like you’re worth more than you’re invoicing, this one’s for you:

In the last two weeks, we here at the CowShed have been asked twice to volunteer and help with projects run by two professional businesses.

In the early days, we probably would have got all excited about the chance to work with reputable organisations in the hope we would be recognised for our goodwill that would in turn lead to something that allowed us to retrospectively make a profit.

In the early days we would have forgotten something quite important that you’ll spot if you re-read the first sentence again…

… we were asked to volunteer.

How does that work when the large and influential organisation only got to be large and influential because they would never have done something for little or no return?

So why ask others to operate in a such a way that only makes commercial sense to the person or organisation asking for help?

The only thing ‘strategic’ about these ‘relationships’ is that they don’t have to pay you to do something they would have had to pay someone else to do. Start-up businesses are an easy example of this where many try and lure the skills and expertise of others through the light handed promise of ‘equity’.

How does it come to be that you would volunteer to be used and effectively give everyone else the help up to the next level?

Whilst volunteering in the charitable sense is motivated on a sense of morals and values, in the business world it tends to be something that operates on a different platform. We’re not all destined to be the future philanthropic evangelists like Bill or Oprah. We’re your average Joe/Joanne who simply needs to keep going whilst our economies sorts themselves out.

If you are asked to ‘volunteer’ your help with anything that takes you away from your core focus, think hard about why you’re really considering it.

In some cases, it may be a legitimate step to success, but never let it be for pride, ego, or simply to ‘be famous‘ like the thousands of young children who view reality TV as their future.

Be prepared to walk away for the sake of your values, your business model and vision, and most of all, your sanity. Remember, you must put yourself first in order to be in a position to effectively help others when the time is right.

You’ll thank yourself later and in the meantime, it’s worth reading ‘The Go Giver‘ by Bob Burg and John David Mann – it’ll show you how to effectively help others through the philosophy of paying it forward.

Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.

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