“Can I pick your brain?” has to be one of the most frequently asked questions I have been asked over the past year. As I have grown Operation Evolve and expanded Boss Babes Brunch and Wear Your Crown 101, a lot of associates, friends, and even strangers have contacted me to “pick my brain.” Although it is very flattering that people are confident that I have the answers to their questions, I have had to question whether it the most effective thing for me to do as I am growing my business. While this concept has been on my mind to write about for a few weeks, I am coming from the angle of a new entrepreneur. The first thing that came to my mind to explain the topic was Olive Garden.
When I was in college, I was a server at Olive Garden. I encountered so many types of people and always wanted to provide an incredible experience. Customer service was and will always be something that has been important for me to provide to my clientele. On a Wednesday evening, a couple sat at my table. The woman was beaming and from the dollars pinned on her dress, I knew it was her birthday. She and her husband were there to enjoy a great meal together. I wanted to make sure the smile stayed on her face the entire meal. I made sure their drinks stayed full, that their salad and bread runneth over, the food was piping hot, and I even had a group of people come out to sing Happy Birthday! They loved the service so much, they invited me out to her party that was happening that weekend.
I knew my tip was going to be LIT!!! I boxed their food out and took them the check. I ran their card and told them to enjoy the rest of their evening. Making $2.13 an hour is rough, but when your guests have experiences like that, the tip always makes up for it. Except for this time… I went to the table and grabbed the book. I went to open it and saw a zero in the tip slot. Still being optimistic, I checked the table to see if they left my $100 tip on the table. No. But they did write a note on top of the receipt. “Thanks for the awesome service. See you this weekend!” They wrote the address to the party below. I was so disappointed. I took so much time and energy to ensure they were good to go. When it was time for my effort to be acknowledged, I got a party invite.
For some of you it may not be a party invite, but maybe coffee or after-hours drinks. When you ask someone to pick their brain, you are asking for their time, their years of studying the topic, their time spent in that industry making mistakes and growing from them, and their intellectual property and you only think it is worth a venti caramel macchiato?! I completely understand the desire to get the tools you need to succeed, but my point is that you must respect the entrepreneur. As much as we want you to come to us, we want you to understand these three things first:
1. Picking my brain is the equivalent to a consultation- If you are looking for resources and information to build, grow, or start your brand, picking my brain is a consultation, or better yet, a coaching session. One service provided by Operation Evolve, LLC is Wear Your Crown 101. It is a pageant and consulting service that provides affordable and hands-on coaching to pageant contestants, reigning queens, and directors. In my 14 years in pageantry, I have won 3 titles, I have directed a state pageant, judged multiple pageants, and coached several young ladies who have won at the local, state, and national level. I mention that to show that this is not just a hobby for me. I have poured thousands of hours and dollars into my skillset. Offering me a coffee to sit down for an hour to teach you how to win in the interview room is not something that I am willing to do. Not because I a mean, but because I have a business to run. If you are looking for one-on-one help from a qualified person, you must be prepared to retain their services.
2. Do not be offended if someone asks you to pay- “That’s not my job!” is a common phrase that people use when they are asked to complete tasks that are not in their job descriptions. Just like you would not be happy about your boss asking you to work for no pay, the same thing applies when you are asking a service provider to sit down with you and give you “advice” on how to launch your brand or organize your finances or put together a meal plan. If you ask someone for a pick your brain session, and he or she mentions pricing, don’t roll your eyes and write them off as a greedy person trying to take all your money. There are some people who do not mind having a complimentary consultation. If fact, Operation Evolve offers one. However, no one is obligated to help you. Some companies have different standards for operating their business. No love lost. If someone has information that is going to help you make money, win a pageant, grow your brand, etc., it is something worth investing in.
3. Manage your expectations - If someone agrees to meet with you to “pick their brain,” do not go into that meeting with the expectation that this person is going to drop ten years’ worth of game on you. Especially if this person consults with people for a living. There are levels to information that we have as people who provide a service. Going back to my pageant coaching. Someone can sit down with me and ask me how to best prepare for the interview. If this is a pick your brain session, I would say they should practice and suggest they download one of my free tools, “25 Questions Every Pageant Girl Should Know.” A paid client would go through question and answer prep, we would discuss how to answer the questions, I would give feedback, and we would have homework for the next session. So, a pick your brain session may reveal what you need to do, and a paid session will teach you how to do it. However, there are some situations when the person you are speaking to is generous with the level of information they may want to share on a given day, and you may walk away with gems for days. But, teaching the process is not what a pick your brain session is for. Capiche?
So, I know this conversation isn’t fun to have, but I share it because I used to be that person. For the life of me, I just didn’t understand why some people couldn’t just tell me how to do it. As I have poured hours, thousands of dollars, and made countless errors to perfect my craft, I get it. One thing I have come to understand is that you either will spend time or money to get your brand where it needs to be. If you are not able or willing to financially invest in your business, you will spend time researching and learning how to make it happen. You have to make the decision on what you are willing to invest in.
I, along with many of you reading this, are secure in our skillset and constantly working to improve so we may provide the best to our clients. There is no shame in putting a price tag on your services. I hope this shares a new perspective as you move forward in your brand and business development. You have the choice to conduct your business as you see fit. As for me and my house, we shall not let our brains be picked. Amen.
Article written by Jessica Alexander. She is the Founder/CEO of Operation Evolve, LLC. She is based in Montgomery, AL and works as a Personal Brand Strategist. Over the past 5 years, she has promoted various brands across the country. She now utilizes her expertise for individuals and small businesses. Two of her original concepts include Wear Your Crown 101 and Boss Babes Brunch Tour. For more information about Operation Evolve, visit www.operationevolve.com or send an email to email@example.com