The advice we get from books, media, consultants and conference presenter gurus is rarely free.
However, the free term is often liberally used; there is a cost – the opportunity cost and/or the opportunities lost because of taking that free counsel.
On the other hand, how often have we called someone we know, like and trust – with a little question?
You know the kind of calls we make – the ones to get someone’s advice at no cost, and then not expecting ever to get a bill?
I make those calls, and I take them too – and we participate in this system, if you can call it that, of business development / it’s part of our business relationship and friendship. Sometimes it’s too hard to say no, someone we don’t want to say no to, or because we burn fewer calories and less time in giving that advice than it would take to explain that we’d instead not always provide free advice without some sort of quid-pro-quo in return.
I get asked for advice in several contexts. First is the paying client – they’ve hired me to provide a service, which includes providing advice; it also provides for the client to give me their instructions which sometimes is to do something not consistent with following that advice.
That’s not new, and the same is true when I get advice from others I rely on for their expertise – whether I ask for it or if the advice is given to me unsolicited. (perhaps, for discussing another day, but unsolicited advice – the kind we are provided, or the kind given to us – is tricky, and sometimes we get our back up when we get someone peeing in our ear or when someone reacts badly to ours)
Neither is providing advice to a landlord or tenant, buyer or seller; I’m helping with a transaction – I give my advice, which is sometimes taken – sometimes not, and the payment comes in the form of a commission/fee earned on a negotiating transaction. That’s not new either.
It’s funny, in a perverse way, as a licensed real estate professional, I’m obliged to provide advice and services to a high standard. Notwithstanding best efforts, lawful work, and accepting responsibility, I don’t get paid for my work unless and until a transaction closes or my pre-negotiated fixed fee-for-service work is complete. During that time, though insured for good-faith errors, everyone licensed in my business works with the risk that someone might sue you, take issue with your advice and/or seek out the services of someone else.
Now, look at other professions – accountants get paid whether or not you get audited, lawyers get paid whether or not they lose your case, engineers get paid even if the building doesn’t perform, and doctors get paid whether their patient lives or dies. They get to bury their mistakes – and I’m being silly to make a point.
So, what is my point?
I was reminiscing, thinking back on relationships that worked out well – people I’ve enjoyed who seemed to enjoy association with me as well, where I was the provider of professional services, and they were the customer.
Some were paying customers, and some ‘would be’ indirectly because if we concluded a transaction, there would be a payday – but most often, that fee would be paid by the other party – the landlord, or the seller, so the appreciation of the advice by the client cannot be separated from their ‘skin in the game’ as someone not paying the freight, but deriving the value.
That’s always an awkward posture, but it’s the nature of the industry I work in – perhaps common in other fields of work too. Still, I’m not sure it squares with human nature in that we don’t mind it as a condition of the relationship, but if the context of abundance vs. scarcity, is it natural for us to give our expertise away if there isn’t something coming back our way?
I’m asking this in terms of that quid pro quo context but more of a test of our kindness and generosity when nothing is on the line; when there is no reward or return. There seems to be a tendency to rationalize this as ‘no biggy,’ but if there is nothing reciprocal in return, it grates on you …
It does on me, not often, but sometimes you feel used in an unfair and unbalanced way.