Entrepreneurs and business professionals need to beware of the “If-come.” This is not some mythical furry creature dreamed up by the late Dr. Seuss. An “If-come” is an offer that is summed up: “If you are willing to help me with this project and if we are a success; if the money comes, we’ll all be rich.”
I have been approached by far too many fellow entrepreneurs with heads in the clouds and dollar signs in their eyes. They want help with sales, marketing, management, publicity or social media. Wrapped around the request for services is the Song of The If-Come. Offers like these are often tempting. Experience have taught me how and when to say no.
Based upon my experience, here are questions to use when assessing an “If-Come.”
- Does every detail come only out of their mouth? If the dreamer has not taken the time to document the idea, figure out financial projections or assembled a solid business plan, their idea can change with every whim. If they say that they are ‘too busy,’ be truly concerned.
- What sorts of research have he or she done? If their logic begins “You would think …” or “Someone needs to …” and they have no idea of what else is out there, they are overlooking many key elements. Ask yourself “Would you buy this?” if he or she offered it to you? When they are too busy to research their idea, they are playing blind man’s bluff.
- Does the idea have a legal status? Some want to be entrepreneurs assume that they do not need to do that from the get go – they will take care of it later if it catches on. Others hide things under a company they own, and can box others out of participating or having legal claims. If someone is serious about an idea, they have thought far enough ahead that he or she are willing to invest in a codified business structure, and have you as a reasonable part of it.
- Is their offer grounded in an attempt to appeal to your emotions: greed, ego, success, legacy or fame? The entrepreneur’s logic to entice you is more about what you can do for him or her. They use as much flowery praise as they can to hook you in or keep you hooked. Do not believe all the words they say. Chances are they are using them on someone else as well.
- Are they are busy stating what you can do for them, but are unable to connect the dots on how this works as a part of the whole? Is he or she looking at the big picture? Real leaders know how a system functions as a complete process, not just as an outcome.
Often, an idea is promising and appealing. You decide to enlist your time and talents. As the project starts to flesh out, keep your head up and eyes open. Look for these warning signs about the venture. Any of these require a critical decision to stay in or get out.
- Is any success disproportionate? If there is initial success, does the lead entrepreneur talk solely about him or herself? Do they pay themselves from dollar one while you are left waiting? Are they using success solely for their gain?
- Do they expect you to invest more of your time in the project? When asked about their participation, does he or she always have an excuse? A disproportionate amount of time, energy, resources or effort on his or her part shows that they are not as involved as they want you to be.
- Do they leverage the relationship for reasons they behave a certain way? Does he or she come back to this as the reason why you should endure when times get tough? Family relationships, longevity of friendships, past success — what every reason you have to work together cannot be the sole reason why you persist in this process.
- Do they talk only about the future instead of the present? Can they give you a realistic overview of the activity at any given time? Anyone who skates around the details is not in touch with what they need to do today to achieve success.
- Do they make major decisions without consulting you? If you are such a key part of this project, do you have a fair say in the activities of the enterprise? If you were so valuable, you should have a realistic say in the present and future direction.
- Can you see the records of activity by any of the participants? Effective leaders document their actions and outcomes. They know in advance that they will have to file reports, pay taxes and documents as a part of business operations. Any sort of statement to the contrary shows that they are not serious and could be leaving you open for liability.
Entrepreneurs are born from the seeds of great ideas and prosper upon effective implementation. Evaluate all the promises made by an offer of “if/come” with a critical eye. If the idea sounds too good to be true or the entrepreneur can only talk his talk, the idea will fail in time.