Something really bad has been going around Austin for a few years now, an approach by local start ups to "get as much as you can for free as long as you can." Even worse, this recommendation, advice has been given to new entrepreneurs by seasoned ones. Now, it's just fine to "take" time from someone who's offered it, and has successfully created and exited a few companies. Odds are they aren't focused on each paycheck. But for the rest of us vendors in town, one hour given to someone, of our time and talent, is one less paid hour we have available to earn. This "get what you can" mentality is damaging, completely one-sided, and honestly, just plain disrespectful to many, so please, let's make it stop.
Further, it seems in the rush of life, we often forget too the Art of Appreciation, and the little things that can make someone quite happy to have given you their time, whether gratis or paid. We forget the little things, the simplest acts that can leave such a positive and lasting impression. So, especially at this time of year, I'm here to remind.
When I left full time agency life to start stripedshirt and spend more time with my daughters, I netted out to a reality of 4 hours of available "work time" a day. That's precious little time and I run out of it every darn day. This time is greatly in demand, and I have clients very willing to pay for it. That payment is quite helpful considering the tens of thousands of savings (sadly I'm serious) I've put into starting my own company. And yet, I break my back to make time for others, to pay it forward, to keep contributing to this amazing tech ecosystem that is Austin, and unique to Austin: people who care, who help each other out, who share their time and talents widely.
Over the past 2.5 years, in literally countless meetings, coffees and brainstorms, I've seen the Art of Appreciation in the easiest, simplest ways that might be helpful reminders for us all:
- Larry Chiang, one of my favorites from Silicon Valley, left me with a gift certificate for dinner at an Austin restaurant after I helped him out at SXSW.
- Ken and Scott from Spredfast have referred me to several people needing PR help after I, as part of a Porter Novelli team, helped launch their business, at a steep discount
- Isaac Barchas has publicly commented on my work and value to ATI and their portfolio companies
- After helping Revision 3 with meeting space at SXSW (from my friends at Spredfast), two nice bottles of wine arrived at my doorstep from dear Jim Louderback.
But its not just material gifts or business leads, it could be something much smaller, but equally impressive:
- Val Cason, after I connected her to Julie Huls and ATC, sent me a handwritten thank you card. Handwritten, stamped, and mailed to the right address. How often does this happen any more?
- After I declined payment they offered for my time (which in, and of itself, is impressive, to acknowledge an hour of my time was worth payment), the great guys at Flashback Data (if you don't know them, look them up, they are really impressive), found my mailing address and sent a personal thank you note. Russell, thank YOU. That, obviously, had an impact.
- Mary Firme made something big happen herself, but remembered, and included me and a few very small things I did, as contributing to the end result. She hand delivered a thank you note.
- And the other day, warm cookies from Tiff's Treats arrived at my house. I wondered who, of a number of people I'd recently helped, they might be from. Rather than from several companies with grown up executives, the cookies were a thank you from a young woman, just out of college, who I brainstormed with about job opportunities. Emily Alfred thinks one step ahead, and with a grace, respect and appreciation that will surely show through in her work performance. She's worth hiring!
All these are awesome, but the easiest, for anyone to do, to thank me after I've helped their business is to support mine. That's the simplest, most logical AND most appreciated appreciation of all:
- After a great discussion about the new company (still in stealth, but keep watch!) he and Kent Savage are up to, Matt Hovis ordered a stripedshirt for his wife and son.
- And after coffee at Mozarts, I had a new order online from Gina Manassero, a fantastic Bay Area tech PR pro we now have with us in Austin.
This one, so obviously, is so rarely done. You meet with someone and they help you with your business. Of course you know about their business, what they focus most of their day on.
Buy something from them, engage with them, give them a positive review, send an email to your network recommending them.
Again, I reiterate: when someone helps you with your business, the easiest and best way to show appreciation is to help them with theirs.
Now, I'm not saying an email thank you isn't fine, or there isn't value in the new LinkedIn recommendations. A thank you of some kind, typically via email, is absolutely the right move, and an expected one. But it's also kind of table stakes these days. If you want to set yourself apart and make your approach in business – and in life – remembered, master the Art of Appreciation, in your own unique – memorable! – way.
And whatever you do, please please don't be so disrespectful of the rest of us as to expect to "get as much as you can for free for as long as you can." Remember the stripedshirt lady: with one simple purchase on my website, I would feel the time I gave you was well worth it, for US BOTH.
Laura Beck is a Boston-to-Austin girl, 12+ years doing high tech PR here making her almost a native. With a passion for start ups, she has now embarked on her own, stripedshirt, but continues doing marketing consulting for a host of Austin area companies and organizations. This was originally posted on AustinStartup.com.