Are you a generous networker or a soul-less taker?

Mary Fletcher Jones

People ask me for free stuff all the time.  I know I have that expression that just invites it; I’m friendly and smile a lot.  Hey, I admit it, I’m pretty accommodating.  If you’re just a little bit nice to me, you will probably get what you want, at least, for a very good price.  But I’m not a complete push-over.

And I can be pretty generous when I want to be. That’s why I get so steamed when other people act like takers.  It’s like what part of quid pro quo do you not understand? Especially in business dealings.

Fortunately, it does not happen often at all, but when it does, I just shake my head in disbelief.

When I first started Fletcher Prince, and hadn’t published my rates yet.  A competing agency had their intern use her personal email to contact me and ask for all my rates, as if she were a potential client.  I Googled her first, of course, figured out she was working for my competitor, then called them and asked them to explain themselves. They were embarassed to admit that they had asked their intern to pose as a potential client to get my rate information, so they could compare it with their own.

That conversation was strained, to say the least, and no, I did not give them my rates.  And you know, if they had just asked me, over lunch, and shared their own, I would have told them.

So, has this ever happened to you?

Another competing agency just had their admin asst. email me today because some unidentified person who could not be bothered to call me himself  wanted to know some very specific information about how I record video.  They wanted to know what kind of camera and editing software I use, how I added lower-thirds, etc. Very specific info.

They know how to do this, by the way: they do it themselves, and they charge for it. Just like I do.

But they wouldn’t tell me who wanted to know or WHY they wanted to know.  Certainly, they weren’t looking for advice.  They produce video for clients, and charge for it, and when I look at their video, their video isn’t any worse or better than mine in production quality.  Maybe a little better.  They just aren’t getting many views, but that’s because their video is really boring, not because their video camera or editing is faulty. They just haven’t learned how to tell a story on video.

But their camera appears to be fine, so it’s not like they need any tips from me!

So I called them back and said, “Are you serious? You want me to tell you how I conduct my business but you don’t want to tell me why? Are you selling me something?”

I figured they must be trying to sell me video production services, and they’re building their case by trying to demonstrate that I produce unacceptable video or something.

“No, she said, he just wants to know.”


Well, then why didn’t he call me?  Or take me to lunch?  Or offer to tell me what kind of camera he’s using?

Because I CHARGE people for video production advice.  And they do, too!

I’m not that easy!

So I was pretty huffy.  I said, “Do I call you and ask you how you do your billing? You don’t know me! At least buy me a cup of coffee first! Dang!”

How is it people don’t get basic politeness?

I explained –very sweetly, because I could tell she was young and I know she was just doing her job and what she was told to do — “Look, there is a way to do things in business. I’m telling this to you so you and your boss won’t make this mistake in the future.  This is very basic. When you want something from someone — something of value, like their expertise — it is customary to offer them something in exchange.

First of all, whoever wants to know this should have had the courtesy to call me himself (I know it was a he because she said his first name).

Secondly, he should be prepared to tell me something of value, or share something about the way he handles video or his business.  You know what I mean?  That’s basic networking.

I can’t believe I had to explain this today.  Does this happen to you?


About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a mom, teacher, and blogger. She is also the creator of "Living Well With Autism," an online resource for caregivers of children, teens, and adults with autism and related special needs.

Posted on February 10, 2011, in Marketing Tips. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Sorry if this came across a little negative. In the past year, I’ve had people take a logo, photo, and a PowerPoint presentation, and present it as their own. We’re such a small shop and it makes me feel a little helpless when people choose to be unethical. Today, that got to me. But on the balance of things, I’m lucky to know a great many professional, decent folks — the great majority of my contacts are.


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