Over-Giving: Are You Putting Your Business at Risk?

4 years ago

Lately I've been on a weekly pilgrimage to a local microbrewery to try their new beers and fill my growler. While I'm not a huge beer drinker (more of a wine geek), I like good and interesting brews. I particularly love this brewery for their innovative creations. Their friendliness is a huge boost as well. They are up and coming and growing fast with a loyal following. Recently while I was sipping my samples, the owner was having a conversation with someone who stopped in looking for a donation for an upcoming event and my ears perked up as I overheard some of what was said.

The people who stopped in were friends of the owner and were asking for beer donations for an upcoming charity event. Besides schooling them on the ins and outs of liability insurance as it relates to alcohol in the state of Pennsylvania, the owner made a hugely important statement that all business owners need to heed. He said, "If I donated to every person who came in here and asked (which is at least one or more a day every day), I wouldn't have any beer left to sell." Immediately my small business coach and consultant ears perked up in a celebratory "Yay for awareness and boundaries!"

Image: sashafatcat via Flickr

His remarks reminded me of something that every business owner needs to remember: You can't over-extend and over-give of your time, product, or service for free. If all you do is give-give-give with random hope that there will be some fantastic free publicity or future opportunities coming your way without putting strategy and boundaries around what you give, you will generously donate yourself right out of business. This holds true whether you are selling a tangible product (like beer) or a service that requires your time and expertise.

Last year at BlogHer '12 I moderated a panel addressing the question of knowing when it is time to invest money to market your business. One of those key takeaways was:

Time = Money

You can guest post and do pro-bono work until the cows come home thinking they are all great free ways to market. Yet when you invest your time in something, you are by default investing money. 

This doesn't mean you should never donate your time or product. It can be a productive way to build your brand awareness. However, it shouldn't be done unconsciously without a plan and limits. Never should it put the viability of your business in jeopardy. This is where the art of saying, "I appreciate you thinking of me for this opportunity, but unfortunately I have to say no thank you at this time." You can always keep the door open for the future.

I am certainly grateful my favorite brewmeister at Free Will Brewing is so business savvy. They are a young business with so much potential and I want them around for as long as I live in the area.

How about you? Do you tend to over-give in a way that hurts your bottom line or peace of mind? Do you see other local businesses making this perilous mistake?

Would love to hear from you in the comments...

Paula Gregorowicz plucks women business owners off the hamster wheel of overwhelm, struggle, and self-doubt and guides them to a purposeful path of building authentic and successful businesses using a unique blend of practical action and inner awareness called Intuitive Intelligence®.
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