My 95-year-old grandfather is quite a character. Yep, he’s still going strong, takes 2 pills a month (yes, you read that right, a month) but he always makes sure he gets his gin in every day. (Forget yogurt, the key to living a long and health life is definitely the gin.) He’s also a very successful businessman.
One of the things he taught me is you should always ask. What’s the worst that will happen? They’ll say no and you’ll be no worse off than you are now.
Now, while I subscribe to that and DO ask, I’ve realized there’s a bit of an unspoken rule here. Yes, I think asking and negotiating is part of business and life. So why do some questions put my teeth on edge and others don’t? Where’s the line?
I’ve been thinking about this and that’s when it hit me. The questions that bug me, that cause my defensives to go up, are the ones that imply a lack of respect for me.
Let me illustrate with a story. At a Dan Kennedy event a few years ago, Gene Simmons was speaking. He opened it up for questions and this guy with what appeared to be a relatively new business stood up. In the course of the conversation with Gene, he said “Well, I know you see the potential of what I’m doing, but I can’t pay you to help me market it. Would you be willing to take it on for a percentage of the business?”
Instantly groans filled the room. The would-be business owner turned around and said “It doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?”
Now on one hand he’s right. If Gene said no (which he did) he’s no worse off than he was before he asked.
On the other hand, I would argue that he IS worse off because he just lost the respect of a chunk of the people in the room (and probably Gene as well).
Why? Because that’s a question that implies a lack of respect for both Gene and himself.
What this would-be business owner is saying is this: “I don’t believe enough in my business to take out a loan or do what it takes to hire you. Nor do I really believe that YOU can do what you say to make me a success.”
Because if he believed either of those, he WOULD find the money because he would know he would get a huge return on his investment.
Now, there are limits here. A smart business person would figure out what he or she should expect to gross from their business, and then would know how much to invest to get that. So, for instance, let’s say the potential of the business is $100,000 a year. It wouldn’t make any sense at all to invest $250,000 to get $100,000. (Unless the $250,000 is a one-time thing and you were pretty convinced you would continue to make $100,000 every year, at which point by year 3 you’d start making pure profit.) Now, would it make sense to invest $10,000 to make $100,000? I’d say so.
In addition to that, the moment anyone says “I know you see the potential in this” they’ve lost me. If they have to TELL me that because it’s not so obvious I can see it for myself, we have a problem on our hands.
So, while I do believe in Grandpa’s adage which is “it doesn’t hurt to ask” I also believe that BEFORE you ask, make sure what you’re asking isn’t implying a lack of respect.