Can You Ever be Too Helpful?
I wrestle with this idea a lot in my business.
Which is why H is for Helpful in my A to Z of Blogging.
On the one hand, my 3 golden rules of blogging are:
On the other, I had frank discussions this week with my fabulous Business Growth Coach, Karen Cook of Plan and Grow, who’s sparkling smile cushioned the blow of recognising my tendency to give too much away for free!
It’s a tough one to reconcile.
I give away knowledge and information on my blogs for the sheer pleasure of just being helpful. It feels good. I want to make an impact, to influence someone, even in a small way. That for me, is a measure of success, knowing I’ve inspired someone or made a difference to them.
However, it’s equally important to know when to stop!
At the end of the day, I’m not a charity. I have bills to pay and a caffeine and stationery habit to feed!
Helpful Vs Nice
I googled ‘too helpful in business’ to see what other bloggers and business influencers had to say on the subject, and curiously, the responses all seemed to interchange with the idea of being ‘too nice’.
Now, being ‘too nice’ is another thing I’ve been accused of in a former life.
I spent a good deal of my career working with long term unemployed people. I refused to slip into the cynical mindset of the Jobcentre advisors – who referred people to our job club – their attitude seemed to be that everyone on benefits was somehow cheating the system. They viewed the people they were supposed to be helping as guilty until proven innocent.
I take people on face value, and 90% of the time they live up to that, and sometimes even surprise me (in a good way).
10% will disappoint you, let you down, let themselves down or generally cause you grief, but if being ‘too nice’ meant that I wasn’t going to let those 10% of A’holes ruin it for everyone else, then I’m guilty as charged!
I do believe in the basic goodness of human nature. Most people do not go around actively trying to upset each other. However, as a society, we seem to be stuck with the idea that you have to be ruthless and cruel to be successful (possibly the reason we elect the leaders we do!) – it’s time to change the story.
Can Nice People Be Successful?
This really depends on how you define ‘success’.
If your only measure of success is financial gain, therefore the motivation to achieve maximum success is greed. It’s fair to say that greedy people are, generally speaking, in the 10% of A’holes! By that measure, you can’t be ‘nice’ and successful.
However, financial gain is only one measure of success (and not necessarily a reliable or honest one!).
Start by asking yourself, what does success mean to me?
Pursue what success means for you and the money will follow, not the other way around!
Truly, genuinely, successful people have more than numbers in a bank account to show for their efforts.
Every day I mix with entrepreneurs who are both successful and nice, and they all have 3 things in common:
1) They Collaborate, They Don’t Compete
The sky is a big place, there’s no need for all the birds to fly in the same part if it.
In business, of course, you need to keep an eye on your competitors, but their success doesn’t mean your failure.
Competitors mean you have to up your game, they keep you honest – you can’t get away with being crap if there is somewhere else people can turn to. But above all else, they prove a demand for what you do and provide an opportunity to learn and collaborate, especially if you are the only one in your business – you can only do so much on your own.
What happens if a client asks you to do a job that’s simply too big for you alone?
What happens if you don’t have capacity or skills to do a job for a client or you’re not available when they need you – who would you be happy to pass them on to?
Businesses don’t operate in isolation; wouldn’t you rather develop a reputation for being helpful and trustworthy than secretive and unapproachable?
- Truly successful people cultivate positive relationships all around them and their business.
2) They Are Driven By Passion Not Profit
The businesses that get the worst press are the ones that exploit their staff and suppliers and avoid paying tax.
Passion is infectious. We want to work with people who care about what they do. Because, if they care about what they do, they’ll care about what their customers get out of it.
Everybody is a winner (not just the shareholders!).
- Truly successful people care about more than money, they care about their impact on others.
3) They Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
The most demotivating experience anyone can go through is to be made to feel purposeless, unappreciated, worthless, exploited or ignored.
Sometimes, the most uplifting thing we can hear is ‘Thank You’. It’s often all we need to get our mojo back when we’re going through a rough patch.
- Truly successful people share in their success and acknowledge and appreciate the people that helped them get there.
Where Do I Draw The ‘Helpful’ Line?
For those who develop a reputation for being helpful, success will follow.
However, don’t give more of your time for free than you are rewarded for.
I use the word ‘rewarded’ instead of ‘paid’ because, as a business, often the rewards are in kind or in good will and that can be banked (as well as the financial reward). As the leader in your business, only you can make this judgement call.
“But if I give everything away, why would people pay for my services?” I hear you ask…
The answer is, don’t give everything away. Give them part of the answer.
In your first interaction you are ‘diagnosing the problem’ – you can offer a taste of the possible solutions, but if you’re solving the problem for them, that has value and you need to be charging for it.
Each blog you write is a small suggestion or part of a solution to a wider problem. And yes, potentially someone determined enough could mine all of your blogs for the answers they need, but that takes time and their time, just like your time, has value.
If reading the solution was enough to take action, we’d all be doing it, but in reality, we need more than that to motivate us to change. That’s when all the banked good will and helpfulness will pay off.
Being helpful doesn’t just mean giving away your knowledge, it is also about helping other businesses in your network. Being helpful can be as simple as making an introduction between two of your contacts. It can be sharing, liking or commenting on someone’s blog or social media updates. It can be writing a recommendation on Linked In, reviewing their book on Amazon or as simple as thanking them for helping you.
Blog just to be helpful.
Help others with the knowledge you openly share and let Karma take care of the rest!