I address doctors about managing their finances. No, I do not talk about the business finance for doctors (hell, nobody has asked me to), but it is personal finance. However, privately many of them have told me that they are always approached for free advice. I guess if you are a specialist you are lucky, if you are a dentist you can say ‘I have not carried my chair’ – but I tell them we all get asked free advice. Lawyers, doctors, brokers, financial advisers, authors, why even Trainers – all of us get asked do we not?
How much to give free and how much to hide? What to give away FREE in a client meeting is really difficult to say. When you are young and looking for business, it is tempting to give away more free, as you get older there are more requests for free stuff. So when you go to a Rotary event, or a free seminar, or to a professional gathering – should you have an agenda of how much to give and how much to hold back. For trainers – one question to ask is “should they do anything free at all” – after all speaking is your main profession, is it not?
30 years into having my own business, I find that strangers, friends and even family, at some point, want me to share advice about equity investing, financial planning, tax filing, tax computation, etc. Don’t get me wrong: I am open to sharing information- however, there has to be a limit and there are many things that I do not know. Honest, I have no clue on personal taxation – I mean at the advice giving level!
Subra “I want to start something on my own…wanted to pick your brains” is a request I handle weekly if not daily. Other than loathing travel I do not see these as painful and I do spend more than the “allotted” time on such ‘coffee’ meetings. Well some of the people who call me are my investment clients – and I see such meetings as ‘fair’, but what about people who are ‘new’ and only do this? Or clients with very small financial engagements – should all this be done free at all? If so why?
Hoping that such assignments will lead to something bigger is fine, but I am NOT looking to become a certified coach (OMG I have been pushed by so many people that I cannot say nudged, it is shovelled!), or a life consultant, business coach, marriage counselor, overseas education consultant, social media expert….so how does one handle all these ‘pick your brain’ requests? Seriously, I do not know. These meetups are tricky since, as an IFA, you are walking a fine line between nurturing a potential client or someone who takes your free advice and has no intention of using your services. What happens when a mutual fund wants you to share your ‘success story’ with young and up coming IFAs? obviously for free? I just say NO to any Amc. They are surely not in the charity business, are they?
Remember IFAs the only product that YOU are selling is time. Anybody who asks for your time should pay for it. So whether it is a magazine or a newspaper asking for articles, or a television channel asking for face time, or an institute/association asking you to ‘address’ its members, time has to be priced.
Keep for yourself a limit – say 30 minutes without including travel time and introductions. Also catch yourself from going on to unrelated topics – there is no reason why my client should pay for me airing my views on Dhoni’s retirement or Sachin’s son’s forthcoming debut. Do not waste too much time digressing. Decide what are free questions and which are questions for which other clients are already paying you for. Judge clients on the Value for Money that they give you, not for how nice they are while they talk. AT your self set time clock of 30 minutes, your alarm bell should ring. Make an excuse. Go to the loo. Get on a call.
Force them to rethink about the question, and hint that a retainership fee should be in place. Recently one senior executive from a sinking dotcom spent a couple of hours on the phone with me and thought it should be free. If YOU think it has to paid, tell them upfront even if you do not collect money upfront. This man had some impossible dreams, expectations of ‘r’ in the compounding formula, had no will…so spoke to him and then he said “I am in a different city I would prefer somebody local” fair enough, but a lesson learnt. When I do some consultancy where I do not expect fees, I nominate a charity – one charity collected a cool 43k – I was thrilled and honored too.
Do I always price my time? If it is an organisation seeking my time, yes. If it is a college, school, etc I do it free. If it is an association I price it lower. I do not write for free, but I have not ever charged for appearing on television. Always wondered, but never did.
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