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5 Things You Should Seriously Never Say To An Entrepreneur

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I love what I do. I genuinely, wholeheartedly love it and I wouldn't trade it for all the chocolate chip muffins in Timmy's. But I'm human, and some things that I've experienced as an entrepreneur really piss me off. What's more, I'm absolutely certain I'm not alone.

Recently I had lunch with a dear friend of mine who is also a business owner. We are both heart-centered solopreneurs -- and to put that into plain English, we are both one-man-shows who are extremely passionate about giving back and using our success as a platform to help others.

But as we were talking, we discovered we shared a third and slightly less awesome thing in common -- we both receive wildly inappropriate requests from others, including but not limited to, asks for free stuff.

We had a hearty chat and a good laugh about it all, and agreed that the best response to said requests is along the lines of, "Respectfully... no."

In the spirit of light-heartedness and fun, here are five easy ways to piss off an entrepreneur.

"I want to pick your brains."
I am sure you do, my lukewarm networking contact from 2009. I have awesome information in this squishy mass of grey matter and these insights have helped my clients to soar to great heights. My clients also paid for access to that information, and you my friend, are effectively breaking and entering.

My recommended response to this request? "Awesome. I would love to help you. My monthly rates start at such-and-such, and there are some free resources on my website. You can also check out my library of articles for the Huffington Post Canada, there's lots of free info there. All the very best to you." (And no, don't copy this verbatim.)

"I can't afford your rates but I really want to work with you. Can't you give me a discount?"
Look, I get it. As small business owners we have little to no marketing budget and I genuinely don't want anyone getting into financial difficulty if my services are currently out of their reach. But here's how I see it. I want to drive a matte black Lamborghini that looks like the Batmobile, but it's a little out of my price range. So, right now I'll settle for my trusty Mazda 2. Understand my conundrum?

And in this vein, no I won't give you a discount because we kinda-sorta know each other. In all sincerity, the vast majority of my clients are people I know in some way or another and why should one person have a discount while another pays full whack? As the saying goes, "All is fair in love and business." (That's the phrase, right?)

"Here's someone I'd really like you to meet."
This happens a LOT. And I'm all for meeting like-minded people. But the subtext of this request is, "Hey, this person would really benefit from knowing you. Would you mind donating your time to help them?" That's a fair request (see also the point below for proper pro bono etiquette), but tell it as it is. Don't frame it as a benefit to me when in actual fact you're asking me to give my time and my services for nothing. Down with the BS! I used to work in sales and I can smell a pitch a mile away. The same goes for well-meaning folks who send unqualified leads and general time-wasters my way. Thanks, but, respectfully... no.

"Hey, thanks so much for doing this for us pro bono. By the way -- we also need you to do this."
Also known as scope creep. As I mentioned, I'm proud to give back to none-profits and I'm grateful that I'm in a position to do so. However, this should be appreciated by recipients and not simply expected. One of the greatest gifts we can give is our time, so if a busy entrepreneur (or anyone, for that matter) is donating their time, respect that. Don't scope creep the hell out of them and have them go from giving 10 hours of their time to giving 40. It's not cool. At all. It puts us in the awkward position of having to push back. And if other people who are donating their time have zero boundaries and allow you to scope creep them until the cows come home, then guess what? When I push back, I'm going to look like the a-hole.

"Let's meet in the coffee shop outside my office."
Okay. I could write an entire article solely based around why I hate the "Let's go out for coffee" request and I've mentioned it in previous articles for this fine outlet. For the sake of brevity, suffice to say I find it to be a colossal waste of my time, and it drives me absolutely bananas as it's usually combined with Awkward Ask #1, "Can I pick your brains?" But, if on a rare occasion I do agree to a coffee date, which is a big dealio in my world, do me the courtesy of meeting me half way. No, not metaphorically -- logistically. You see, if I've already said I don't do coffee dates and you want me to leave the safe confines of my warm house in the 'burbs and drive all the way into the city to meet you in the Starbucks conveniently located a hop, skip and a jump away from your place of business, don't be shocked when my answer is a firm, "No thanks."

That's all folks. I'll step off my soapbox for now. After all, I have a business to run.

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