Archive | March, 2012

A lesson from my dad: Giving back with knowledge

30 Mar

During my spring break, I was hanging out with my dad at work. He’s an author and entrepreneur who started a business event company called iBreakfast almost 20 years ago, so he’s very connected and trusted source when it comes to startups.

He was busily at work on his computer when he received a call from someone who wanted to hire him to run his company for a few months. Observing this phone call from my seat beside my father (I couldn’t even hear what the guy on the phone had to say), taught me a lot about networking and business etiquette.

First of all, it proved something my dad has always told me: When you work hard and are strong in your field, opportunities will come to you.

Secondly, kudos to the guy who called my dad! Cold-calling is pretty brave in a world where we can opt out of talking to a real person by sending an email. And, his courage paid off!

Within the first few minutes of the call, the guy had explained his business, and my dad said he couldn’t take the job because it didn’t really fit his skills. It could have ended there.

But my dad stayed on the phone for an hour with this man who he’d never met! He talked to the guy at length about his business, giving him advice from personal experience. He also told him he would give him names of people that could help him.

Later that day, I found an old article (because my dad saves every newspaper!) about Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn.

“Want to brainstorm about new technology? Build a business? Raise a cool million — or billion? Mr. Hoffman is a man to see. If he can’t help, he probably knows someone who can. He is, as you might expect, a seriously linked-in guy….Mr. Hoffman, 44, leans back in his chair. Then he lets fly: Airbnb will need a team in China, a robust Chinese-language platform, Web filters to keep Beijing happy, he says. It might also need a joint venture partner. He rattles off a few names.”

It’s a bit unclear exactly what the terms are in this consultation session, but he sounds just like my dad. Churning out advice and the key players to some hopeful entrepreneur. And Hoffman is a billionaire with two full-time jobs and who sits on the boards multiple companies. Yet he found time to help this newcomer.

I remember at school, a land developer named Dave Magrogan came to speak. He wasn’t paid. He said it was his way of doing charity. He said charity is part of gratitude for what he has.

It’s really impressive to me how these renowned businessmen who must be incredibly busy, are willing to help regular people they encounter.

Giving knowledge is charitable currency in every field. When I’m seen as a reputable source on anything, I plan to give back in the same way the businessmen I mentioned do. And until then, I plan to seek free advice from all who are nice enough to give it out. Lucky for me, I’m pretty close with a great entrepreneurs I know – my dad!