But It Took the Words: “No, You Can’t Do That.” For Him to Realise It
Walter was an IT technician by day. He helped out on a comic book subscription service by night – a side hustle support role he had accidentally landed himself.
Walter had been recommended to Clarissa when she needed a website to launch her online comic book subscription service. She commissioned him to build the website, then on recognising his love and knowledge of the comic book world, she asked if he’d help out in answering subscriber questions. Questions from parents, grandparents and anyone who was buying the subscriptions for Clarissa’s intended market – children and teenagers.
Clarissa’s idea to start the subscription service had come about when she had learnt from her friend that their local comic book store that had served the needs of avid readers and collectors of comic books was closing down. A serial side hustler, Clarissa had found her next venture.
But the thing was, Clarissa, didn’t know much about comics. That was OK because that’s where Walter came in. When Clarissa had questions from subscribers that she couldn’t answer, she’d ask Walter. He created a list of questions for her to ask by way of helping her to engage – the age of the child or teenager and their interests. He’d then make recommendations and answer further questions about the type of content in each comic – the artwork, the language, the level of violence, if relevant.
The questions being asked led Walter to write blog posts to help answer these. He suggested to Clarissa that he could add a Frequently Asked Questions section to her website where this information could be shared. Clarissa said no because she thought that would take away from the direct interaction she had with subscribers. When she responded to their questions (with Walter’s help), she felt the personal interaction was driving sales, and the FAQ section, she thought, would take away from that.
Walter believed there was value in sharing these posts. He asked Clarissa if she would be OK with that, saying he’d share a link to her website within the post. She said that was fine, and so he created a simple website to host his blog. He added an Ask Wally section, where he answered questions. He shared this across social media platforms he had connected to his website – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All the time, including links to Clarissa’s site.
Then he started writing his own blog about the comic books, giving an overview of the stories they contained, the different characters and the type of plots in each comic. He wrote about the superheroes – their backstories, their powers, their arch-rivals. He continued to reference Clarissa’s website and subscription service in all his posts with a direct link to her site. These combined actions brought Clarissa a lot of traffic, and they agreed that when people bought via the link in his posts, he would receive a commission.
This is how things continued for a couple of years. Clarissa’s online business grew steadily because of Walter’s posts, and Walter’s earnings grew as a result.
Then Clarissa decided because business was so good that she would open her first bricks and mortar store. She needed a co-founder/investor to launch the store because it wasn’t something she felt she could do alone. And so, she asked Walter to promote this on her website and through his social media channels, inviting people to get in touch if this was of interest to them.
But Clarissa didn’t ask Walter if he’d like to be her co-founder/investor. Walter figured this was because he still worked as an IT technician by day, providing his side hustle support by night. And so Clarissa wouldn’t have realised he would be interested. But he was. Walter had really enjoyed helping to answer subscriber questions and writing his posts. As a side hustle, it brought in some extra income, not enough to enable him to leave his job. But as co-founder/investor of a bricks and mortar store, he believed he could now step away from his job and invest his money, time and energy into growing the business.
So, Walter let Clarissa know he was interested. He figured she’d openly welcome him as a co-founder/investor, and they’d just need to agree to a few things and get the paperwork in order. He was soon to learn how wrong and naive he was in making his assumption.
Walter’s proposal was met by: That wouldn’t work. You don’t have the business savvy that’s needed to start a venture like this. Seeing the shocked look on his face, Clarissa tried to recover, saying. “I say this for your own good. The truth – your truth is, you’re great behind the scenes, but you just don’t have what it takes to be a co-founder/investor in a business. You’re a nerd, not a business person. You can’t do it.”
Walter didn’t say anything in response. He didn’t know what to say. He was lost for words.
Reflecting on what had happened and to help his thought process, he asked himself was there any truth in what Clarissa had said about his truth.
“You’re great behind the scenes” – that’s true.
“You just don’t have what it takes to be a co-founder in a business. – he did play a big part in co-founding Clarissa’s online business – answering questions, writing posts, that’s what drove business – so that’s not true
You’re a nerd, not a business person – the first part is true, the second part he couldn’t answer, because, well, he’d never been a business person – as in running his own business.
Then Walter realised that while he had never run his own business, his input into Clarissa’s business had brought her subscribers and had helped her make a lot of money. He also realised, his percentage earnings in comparison were small.
He knew that wasn’t right.
So, Clarissa had been both right and wrong about Walter being business savvy – right and wrong about his truth.
He thought about what he hadn’t done well in a ‘business savvy way.’
- He hadn’t understood his worth, his value, what he had brought to the venture.
He thought about what he could do differently for any future ventures
- He would need to negotiate better terms;
- He would need to have equity in any project he takes on.
He thought about what he had done well – in a ‘business savvy way.’
- By listening to questions, he had been able to understand customer needs and concerns – the person buying the subscription wanted to ensure it was the best and most suitable for the young reader;
- He had used this information to write posts that helped to target the ideal market – parents, grandparents, whoever was buying the subscription – as opposed to the reader – the children and teenagers;
- He had connected with his audience – through his blog posts and his social media platforms. In turn, he had connected his audience to Clarissa’s products and services. By the time they came to her website, he had converted them to customers, who were ready to buy;
- He had achieved all of this by remaining true and authentic to himself by being helpful in sharing his knowledge.
Knowing all of this really inspired Walter to be more business savvy.
He knew there was no truth in Clarissa’s words: “No, you can’t do that.” He knew his truth was “that he could do it.” He knew he could do anything he set his mind to. He knew some things would come more naturally to him – in particular, all the behind the scenes work. He knew other things would take him out of his comfort zone – in particular, putting himself out there in person. Then he reminded himself when he was engaging with people, he was in a sense putting himself out there, OK, it was remotely, but still … He further reminded himself that the reason that he had been able to put himself out there was because he had remained true and authentic to himself by being helpful in sharing his knowledge. That, Walter, believed was the secret trait to being a savvy business person. A secret trait he possessed.
Walter knew it was time to end his relationship with Clarissa. She asked if they could continue in the same way they had been working – his posts driving subscribers to her site, him receiving a commission on all sales. He said no. She offered to increase his commission. He said no. She offered to give him a share of the equity. He said no.
Clarissa didn’t open her bricks and mortar comic book store – she couldn’t find a co-founder/investor. Without Walter’s behind the scenes support, she was unable to engage with customers effectively. She had actually grown tired of the venture and was ready to move on to her next side hustle. That was OK because she had a buyer for her online comic book subscription service – Walter.
This time Walter negotiated well. In fact, he negotiated exceptionally well. He understood the worth and the value of the business, with and without him. This factored into his negotiation. But he didn’t take advantage. He negotiated fairly. Because that was his truth, he is a man of integrity. A truth that he believed was integral to ‘business savvy.’
Words of Wisdom
Be honest with yourself and see your reality as it is truly is.
As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I create learning programmes and resources to help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives in good, challenging and bad times.
The focus of my work begins by helping people identify a WorkLife path that’s true to their core values, purpose, and motivation. This is followed through by creating meaningful short and long-term WorkLife plans while enabling self-coaching, self-directing, and self-leadership to drive these plans.
I bring you stories created from questions and answers drawn from WorkLife lessons. What I’m trying to do is to highlight different solutions, to provide you with a pathway so that even if a particular story doesn’t apply to you, you understand there is a path to follow.
Whatever you want to do, there is a clear path to it, and once you understand those steps, it becomes much more intuitive, and hopefully, it motivates you to get started. Because that’s what you need most, the motivation to get started. The motivation to follow your vision.
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How To Live True To Who You Really Are is book 4 in the series. Click on the title to see a preview of what’s inside the book.