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Can I pick your brain?

How many times have you been asked this simple question? How many times might have YOU asked this question? Crystal here, Founder of RevComm Consulting – I know I am guilty of having asked this multiple times over the years, especially early on in my career. It’s a great conversation starter, and if you’re serious about learning from an individual with a background or skill that you’re interested in, you can definitely benefit from a little picking of someone’s brain. But when is it not appropriate?

I started pondering on the whole idea of asking to pick someone’s brain recently as our team has come across some potential clients thinking that consulting, or FREElance work, is just that – free. I am all for collaborating, partnering, sharing ideas and lending knowledge wherever I can. I love hearing what others are up to and offering advice or suggestions based on my own experiences, both professional and personal. But as a consultant, I’ve found myself being cautious of what I share – at what point is this now a professional consultation, or at what point are we losing a potential client because I’m setting the foundation for a project I could have been hired to do?

Three years into business ownership and I’m still trying to find my rhythm – especially in the times of COVID! Do (did) we attend every business mixer in the community to get our name out? Do we cold call, cold email, head straight to local nonprofit offices and share a little about what we do? And the dreaded… do we do some work for free? Truth is, I’ve done all of the above, including work for free or close to nothing. Why? Because owning your own business is scary, marketing your business is sometimes weird and unknown, and I started confusing “volunteered” time as a means to promote ourselves. We here at RevComm give back to our community in various ways – we donate, we volunteer, we advocate. This is outside of our consulting business and something that means very much to us as a team. But I have realized that undervaluing our business – our skillset, our expertise – is not a successful way to promote a business.

Circling back to the beginning… can I pick your brain? Is this just another way of undervaluing your skills, your knowledge? I am making a promise to myself to be more intentional with how I ask this question moving forward. Instead of asking if I can pick someone’s brain, I am going to shift my question to a conversation – “I continue to feel challenged with how we market our business to the community. When you have some time, I’d love to hear what has worked for you.” I never want to make anyone feel like I am taking advantage of their skills or undervaluing their experience, so I will actively work on changing how I handle this situation in the future. I am not saying I have felt taken advantage of each time I’ve ever been asked this question in the past, but as a small business owner I have found myself thinking my response through a little more strategically nowadays.

Do you brain pick? What are your thoughts on brain pickin’? I know Halloween is tomorrow, so a little reminder that I’m not asking this question literally 🙂

P.S. Don’t stop asking us questions! We still want you to pick our brain! We just may not create a detailed how-to guide for you 🙂

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