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We don't have that kind of thinking here

Fairtrade-logoI had an unbelievable conversation recently with someone in an organisation that teaches people to become entrepreneurs. At least, that's what they claim. But they seem to have missed the main point, and I don't have any more patience to be nice to people who talk the talk but are just playing.

So here's the message, as clear as I can make it:

People, everyone needs to make money! Whether they're farmers in the wilderness, startups in your hometown, social ventures with bills to pay, or the people you rely on to make things happen. Everyone needs to pay their rent and eat, long-term. You can't build a successful anything just by focusing on getting investment, you have to start right from the beginning with the idea of exchanging value for value so that everyone wins.

If you're not teaching them that, then what the hell are you teaching them?

The conversation went something like this:

Them: Hey, Chris, can you give a talk on XYZ for the people we're trying to help become entrepreneurs? Pro bono publicum.

Me: Sure, no problem ...

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(A few weeks later)
Them: Hey, Chris, can you coach some of our entrepreneurs to help them refine their business plans, etc? Meet with them occasionally and advise them, etc.

Me: Are they paying for this?

Them: No, they have no money.

Me: What a coincidence! I spend so much time helping other people that I'm not saving anything for my retirement. But, surely if your entrepreneurs value what they learn from me, then they will offer me something in return? How about they give me a few shares in their company, in exchange for helping them out?

Them: I don't think they have that kind of thinking.

And there we have it, after months of "training" we have produced a new batch of entrepreneurs who don't understand that entrepreneurship is about adding value to people's lives, and receiving something of value in return so that everyone is better off.

If I'm not adding any value to your endeavour, why on earth do you want to spend time with me? There has to be a reason, something you hope to gain from it. And if not, then why ask me to give you my time?

But if you get anything from me, then you have to give me something back. You have to respect that I have my own goals and needs, and participate in a trade that enriches both of us. That's what all business is about. We're in this to get richer together, whether you measure riches in money or time or love or anything else. Everyone has something they want, and we're all in business to help them get it, in exchange for help getting whatever we want.

So please, if you want me to participate in your "mentoring" of entrepreneurs, please tell me what's in it for me. And then persuade me that you're actually offering some value to your customers, because right now I don't see it.

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