Opportunity seems to be a theme here. My last post discussed luck created by opportunity, but this is a bit different.

Being an entrepreneur and a small business owner we encounter all kinds of people and “opportunity”. Everyone will tell you to take advantage of opportunities to either help your business grow or for personal growth. Here’s the problem, taking advantage of opportunity is different than someone taking advantage of you and disguising it as opportunity.

Whether you’re in business for yourself or not, there are always people out there that are going to try and take advantage of you. They’ll make promises and try to convince you that by doing something for them you’ll see a bigger reward at the end. We call this the “carrot dangle”. It refers to the carrot and stick method that cart drivers would use to get mules to pull the cart. If you dangle the carrot in front of the mule he’ll pull the cart thinking that at the end he’ll get the carrot.

When it comes to business, sometimes you’ll get the carrot but from my experience most of the time you will not. It’s typically the people who dangle the carrot who don’t end up giving it to you. If you treat people right and give them the service they are looking for, the people who don’t dangle will usually reward you with the proverbial carrot.

When Jason and I started our company about 3 years ago we encountered this a few times. Everything from “if you do this for me cheap I’ll send you so much business” to “do this for free and so many people will see it you’ll get more business from it”. When you’re starting out it’s not so easy to determine if these are real opportunities or an opportunity for the other guy to take advantage of you. We took a few chances though with the hopes that our business would grow from building relationships with these carrot danglers. At the end of the day most of the carrot danglers are full of shit. Maybe because they have been sitting behind the mule the whole time?

I’m not saying not to take chances and seize opportunity, just know that everything doesn’t always pan out the way you expect it to. Sometimes it does.