Monday, May 17, 2004


by Asim Jalis

Here are some prescriptions for entrepreneurship: 1. Make a list of all the people you current help in some way. (a) See if you can incrementally give them greater value by improving your service in a tiny way. (b) See if you can scale the service so that you can provide the same benefit to other people. (c) See if there are other similar services, with some variations that you can provide to other people. Include everyone, your friends, your relatives, your coworkers, other people that you interact with or connect with in some way. Include your cats. Include your improv group. Include your neighbors. 2. Take every opportunity during the day to help people, when the loss to you is negligible. (a) Let people cut in front of you on the highway, unless you are running really late. (b) Open doors for people. (c) Smile and say "have a nice day" to all the people that you meet. All of these things cost almost nothing, and yet they are valuable to the people receiving them. By sharing freely and generously of these things which are in themselves valueless unless given away, you create value and increase you connectedness to the people around you. 3. Later, give to people even when the loss is non-negligible. (a) For example, donate to charities. But instead of punching in a credit card number on their website, go to their office and write a check. Remember the goal is to connect. While you are there you might find other opportunities to create even more value for them. (b) Anytime someone asks you for something or for money, give it to them. You can negotiate on the amount. Obviously, you don't want to give away more than you have. Remember the goal to connect. (d) At least give $5 to whoever asks for money. Send a check for at least $5 to PBS, whenever they have their pledge drive. This will get you on their mailing-list and they will send you their program guide and other materials. They will connect with you. You might find something interesting there. 4. There is probably a filter principle here too, against giving. In some cases, don't give. Perhaps you don't want to connect with everyone. What if you are approached by a panhandler who is drunk. You might prefer to not connect in that case. You might be concerned about your safety. But I think most people's filter is triggered too quickly. In most cases giving is really really easy. 5. What if people take advantage of you and start asking you to give them more and more. What if they realize you never say no. Well, this might not happen as often as we think it might. Plus, you can always negotiate and give them a little less than they want. Or maybe use your judgement and say no sometimes. But the instinctive action should be to say yes. 6. What if people impose on your time? What if they want to suck up your whole day? Again, I guess you might not want to connect with everyone. Use your judgement. Negotiate. In the end there is no easy solution. The problem is we err on the side of caution and miss out opportunities to connect that outweigh the loss we might incur if we err on the side of optimism. Since we never find out what we missed we can never do this arithmetic correctly. 7. However, I have noticed with entrepreneurs who are incredibly successful, they are also exceedingly generous. I don't know if this has been a coincidence or if this might be something as certain as a law.