Tag Archives: favours

Favours in meetings

The other day I had a catchup coffee with Scott Kilmartin ( known as @ScottKilmartin on twitter ) where we were having a discussion about his very cool business Haul, and the life of the entrepreneur.  Haul has a couple of different levels but to the man on the street, they recycle and retail.  Think Billboards turned into laptop pouches etc.  Very unique, stylish & carbon neutral.

Amongst other things, Scott and I were talking about the effectiveness of the Entrepreneur who tends to operate in a cloud of uncertainty, knowing that they are regularly wasting their energy, but not knowing which activity is a waste.  (Like the old adage about 50% of advertising isn’t working, just not sure which 50% it is).

Anyway I told Scott an anecdote about effectiveness and favours.  We both thought it was very cool, and we both wanted to emulate the habit described.  In fact I thought it was so cool that I would pass it on.

Ages ago I had coffee with Hugh Morgan ( ex Western Mining CEO and ex Chair of the BCA) and I noticed something fascinating that he did.

  • I was interested in Nanotech at the time.  Hugh rang one of his business partners to find out the name of someone he knew that was investing in Nanotech.  Turned out they couldn’t find the name.  Dead end in 30 seconds.
  • Hugh mentioned a document he had read that he thought I would enjoy it.  He rang his PA who emailed the document to me whilst we were having coffee.  Job done.

When I left the coffee shop I had a number of things I was going to do.  Best to term them  favours as there was no immediate tangible benefit to me.  Hugh however left with no tasks.

What I realised later was that’s Hugh’s favour to me was spending half an hour discussing Churchill Club issues over coffee.  It did not include him going back to his office and finding things to send to me.  If it couldn’t be done on the spot, it wasn’t part of the favour.

He was simply more effective than me, even doing favours.

Scott and I (because we were idiots) both then promised to do stuff for each other and left the coffee shop.

How to Execute a favour

How to execute a favour (is it just me that this sounds weird to?)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I dislike favours Almost certainly someone whom knows me well has read the article and thought b*llshit, you’ve done me favours!

Its not true though, I don’t do favours anymore, I only do “specific favours”.

A couple of years ago I met with a “Captain of Australian Industry” for coffee. We had a wide ranging conversation about what I was doing with the Churchill Club. During the conversation I mentioned that I felt concerned about the number of favours I was doing for people and whether I was wasting time and insane. M y coffee guest, pointed out something that was obvious as soon as he mentioned it, but I never would have though of before hand – when I did favours, I threw a business like approach out the window.

If I was offering to sell services, I would be very specific about what I would and wouldn’t do. But when offering to a favour I would be too vague, just a “happy to help you”. My coffee guest pointed out that my favours would be far more effective and less demanding on my time if I put some structure around them.

So I came up with some simple rules…

Rule Number 1. – Is there intangible value to be had here?
If the favour is going to introduce me to new and interesting people or opportunities, I am happy to get involved. If not – goto rule no 2.

Rule Number 2. – Is it good karma?
Because I am not a self centered b@stard, I am happy to do favours that need to be done. However If there is no intangible value for me, and its not good karma, I have learnt to say no. However if it is good karma, goto Rule no 3.

Rule Number 3. – Will it take less than two hours?
I, like the majority of the population have to make a living and can’t spend all my time doing favours. Just like I can’t give to every charity, despite how deserving the may be. Therefore I have to ration my time. If someone asks for a favour that’s going to take longer than two hours, I really have to look at “whats in it for me” as its highly likely its not actually a favour, but someone wanting to save money by getting me to act for free.

So once I have decided that I will do the favour, I am now much more specific about what I offer, I tend to focus on limiting the actions I can control, and not owning outcomes that I can’t. Eg.

– I will help you for two hours, sorry I can’t spend more time on it.

– I show you how to do this, but I won’t write the instructions down, you will have to take notes.

– I will introduce you to person X with my recommendation, but I won’t make the meeting happen, you need to impress them yourself.

Doing these specific favours allows me to still think of myself as a good guy, without having to rip my hair out.

I Hate Favours

Since I have been getting up on my high horse lately about quality executions, I felt compelled to rant a bit about favours.

I hate favours.

Favours drive me insane, because mostly they are not favours at all.  So what do I mean? Consider this experience of mine…

One of my IT services companies had a rack mount server ( a skinny little computer 1 inch high, that belongs in computer racking).  This computer ran a variety of services for us, a couple of websites and our email system.  The computer was kept at an Internet Service Provider, which means it benefited from a high bandwidth internet connection.  Because some of my staff were mates with staff at the ISP, and had helped them out on occasion, they did us a favour.  The favour was they “hosted” the computer for free.  A saving of around $2,500 pa.

Now I didn’t like this favour , but couldn’t put my finger on exactly why.  My staff though I was mad wanting to pay for hosting the computer, and argued heavily against changing the relationship.  Because I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what I didn’t like about the arrangement and had the other usual distractions, I let the situation run.  Right up until the moment that our computer was disconnected without any warning.  What happened was that the IT manager at the ISP ran out of space, and needed our slot.  Since we didn’t have a contract, he pulled out or box, so that he could keep a paying customer happy.  This “pulling” of our server was of course  very bad thing, and caused heartache, stress and problems for the best part of a week.  The billable time chewed up fixing the situation that was worth well over the $2,500 we hadn’t paid.

Now this isn’t the only issue I have had with favours.  So here’s 10 reasons why I don’t like favours.

1.    Nine times out of ten its not a favour at all – you are actually just bartering services.  Have you ever had someone say to you “Hey, I helped you out last week!”.

2.    Favour means service without the same quality you would get as a customer.  Have you ever had a plumber mate do you a favour and fix your plumbing at cost, only to be left with no water in the bathroom for a week?

3.    Favour means you lose the right to complain about poor service.  See above.

4.    Favours don’t come with enforceable warrantees or contractual arrangements.

5.    Favours don’t generally come with trade practices act protection.

6.    The person doing the favour, may not be authorised to do it.  I have had some really angry customers when they found out they were no longer going to get free web site hosting in return for giving a staff member free drinks at their bar.

7.    The person doing you the favour leaves, and all of a sudden you have an urgent mess you need to deal with.  Which helped cause the ISP problem I initially talked about.

8.    The favours have real commercial value so you end up have to keep track of the favours anyway.    I have provided lead to a colleague who generated $100K profit out of it.  In return they bought me a $12 lunch.  (No more favours for him!).

9.    The person doing you the favour may compromise you down stream.  Think any politician in the last decade whom has been done a favour by Brian Burke.

10.    The person doing you the favour may have a specific agenda for doing you the favour.  Think about the guy that gives you free service then wants a testimonial in return.

Now I am not the grinch, and not someone to cut off my nose to spite my own face, and agree that some favours are easy and no-brainers .  However If its more than just a replacement cup of coffee, think carefully about how the favour could play out.