Disclaimer: I write from personal experiences. The list below is not science. It’s derived from a vast amount of experiences and close observation of behaviors I have encountered over the years. If nothing else, you can use this as a reference. I do however encourage you to use your best judgement when dealing with someone you suspect has selfish intentions. Go with your gut because it’s always right.
In my field I come across someone at least once a month that pitches this “idea of partnership” to me. They want someone with my skill set on their “team” and for some reason I come off as a team player. Let me be the first to tell you I work alone. I don’t particularly care to work with others because my work ethics are extreme. I work all the time and expect that from my employees and would expect even more from a partner. Instead of possibly ruining relationships with people, I usually pass on the “partnership” proposals. There are 3 things I look at when I’m approached about partnerships or “team member” proposals. These three bullets help me to gauge if this person is just trying to use me or if its a conversation worth having. This is my checklist, I encourage you to have your own, but you can use mine as a blueprint.
In business you have to use every sense you have. One of the main ones you have to use is sight. You have to be able to see what’s in front of you and also see what’s behind their words and half hearted smiles.
- They are being extra nice. One minute you haven’t heard from this person in months or even years and then the next you hear from them everyday. Compliments come often. It’s a lot of insistence on meeting or conference calls.
- They start pulling you into their life or circle. All of a sudden you start getting invited out to be around their circle of friends/associates. They are presenting themselves as potential bestie instead of business partner. This is perfect mask for their true intentions.
- They start trying to make you like what they like. Depending on how crafty the person is, they will do this slowly. They’ll do it very subtle. This is usually done with gifts, social media tags, ect. The main thing they want is to gain your trust and soften you up and lower your guard.
Like I said before, once a month I get approached and each time they all say and use the same phrases. You will need to use your sense of sound to be able to catch these signs.
- “I have the perfect idea for you” (insert eye roll) I’d like preface this by saying you should take into consideration the amount of time you have known this person. Usually someone that I’ve known all of 2 minutes says that to me and everything in me wants to end the conversation immediately. First, how do you know what’s perfect for me? You don’t even know me! Take it with a grain of salt if its someone that actually knows you. Still move cautiously. Usually they only want to use you for something they have going on when they say “this is perfect for you”.
- “I make a lot of money on my own, but if we team up, we’ll be rich”. If you hear this RUNNNNNNN! They aren’t making a lot of money on their own which is why they want you. If someone is lying to you in their initial pitch, they’ll lie to you down the road. They can’t be trusted. End it right there with a nice “no, I wouldn’t have the time to devote to something like that”.
- “All you gotta do is…” This phrase is like nails on a chalkboard when I hear this. Business is never this simple. A true partnership on anything takes hard work. For someone to water it down to a “all you gotta do is…” is not really familiar with business or they only what you for one thing. They don’t really want you to be a business partner, they only want you to fulfill a task they can’t do on their own for FREE. Trust me on this one.
- Just say no! After all that niceness, after all those compliments, after all those pitches, respond with a simple no. Watch and wait. If they are really interested in you and meant those things they said, they won’t up and disappear. If they were only trying to use you, they’ll become Casper really quick. You’ll never hear from them again. You’ll get to see just how genuine their actions are or are not.
- Change the direction in your favor. Normally, their pitch is set up to only benefit them. You’ll also notice that their pitch usually means you doing a lot of free work and them “getting the business”. This is a clear sign they are trying to use you. If this is the case, change the direction and suggest that they take on more task. Pitch one of your ideas you needed help with and join the two together so its even.
- Challenge their pitch. Question everything, even their intentions. Call them out and watch how they respond. If they get offended, than you have your answer. They were only trying to use you and didn’t really want you as a “partner” but as one of their unpaid workers.
Tread lightly my friends through these murky waters of business and partnerships. More often than not, these people just want to use you. Sad, very sad… but true, very true.