Will You Work for Free?

Free MoneyWould you work for free? Would you spend 20 minutes on the phone with somebody you have never met, knowing they will make a good amount of money based on the conversation you had over the phone? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for helping out strangers to extend my network, or keeping up with my current relationships. But some people are just pushing it… Sometimes, you get an email out of the blue from somebody you don't know, and it makes you happy. Sometimes you get an email from somebody who is trying your name out with the company domain as the email address, and they succeed to reach you. The latter won't become my friends easily! First of all, if you are trying to reach me, you can easily do that through my contact form. But be aware, if you contact me and ask for free-bees...little chance there are any for you!

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Case in point… I received the following email on my new work email. Now you need to know that I have no business cards yet, and have not visited any conference since I joined Airbnb, where my email could have been harvested! (bold, italic and color added by me to emphasis what makes me mad)

Hello Mr. Goedegebuure.

I am a partner with XXXXXXX Capital, a New York-based investment firm, and am conducting research on eBay Inc. for possible investment.

As a first stage of the research, I am speaking with a wide variety of  former eBay executives and others,  to try to assess the abilities of the leadership team, as we put heavy emphasis on management quality. I am getting getting in touch with you because of your  tenure in various management roles from 2002-2011, as I see from your LinkedIn profile.

I am writing to ask for about 20 minutes of your time, by phone, sometime over the next week or so.

Please note that I am not seeking insider or confidential information about any company or situation. I am only looking for a broad perspective on eBay senior management.  The information I gather will be shared  only within  XXXXXXX and won't be circulated or published.

If  there's a time convenient for you, please let me know. I would be happy to accommodate your busy schedule. Thanks in advance for your consideration.


[Name changed]

Sure, I have information. What I don't have is a lot of free time on my hands. We recently welcomed a new born in our family, and with little help around from family, we have our hands full. So any time spend on telephone conversations like these, either come at the expense of my current job, or at the expense of my family. So if I don't know you, have never met you, or even have never heard of you, and you ask me to spend 20 minutes to talk to you over the phone, it better be worth it for me, as those 20 minutes I will never get back, that is part of my life you are asking to give up!

So I responded:

Dear Mr. [Name Changed],

Sure, you can hire me as a paid consultant.

I can send you over the paperwork, after which we can schedule a call.

My hourly rate is $400,- with a minimum of 1 hour.
Please let me know how to proceed.
Thank you
Dennis Goedegebuure

This should bring home the message. I don't want this job, I don't need this job, but if somebody is willing to fork over $400 for me to talk 20 minutes with them, sure I'll take it and pay off part of the hospital bill with the funds!

But you guessed it right, Mister Wall Street investment banker is not willing to pay for the information he wants

Thanks very much, Mr. Goedegebuure, for your speedy reply. As a policy, we do not compensate for these brief conversations. I certainly understand and respect your position on this.  I am willing and able  to circle back at the end of the project and share, by phone, some highlights of our findings, all anonymity protected. If that appeals to you, great. If not, I understand and sorry to bother you.
Best,[Name Changed]

So this is where I get the inspiration from for writing this blog post. Listen, I have a masters degree in Economics, with focus on Finance, specifically investments, and Marketing. I know what this information might be worth, as this is a classic case of Information Asymmetry. I posses information on eBay which is a possible investment of the firm. This information is not freely available to any other market agents, where the possession of the information could be of great value to any investor. You're going to make millions with the information, and you ask me to give up 20 minutes of my life, stealing it away from my kids?!?

So unless you are going to compensate me for my time, you are not getting any of it!

Just imagine you are calling a plumber with a problem, let's say, your sink is leaking water and unless you get it fixed fast, your whole new hardwood  floor will be ruined. Now, when you have the plumber on the phone, asking him for time to drop in to have a look at the problem, and fix it to avoid you having to pay the ruined floor, you ask him to do all that for free...how do you think he will react?

Right, my point exactly!

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Image credit: Free Money Day Under Creative Commons