Help From The Competition

Fear and mystery – those are the two things I felt when I first found out a professional organizer was sitting in the back of my first organizing class.  The fear dissipated as I continued my presentation and saw her nodding her head in encouragement.  The mystery was completely solved when I took her up on her offer to meet her for coffee after one of my classes.

After getting our food, we took a seat at the booths upstairs.  I couldn’t believe our similarities.  She had tried corporate America some time ago and disliked it just as much as I did.  She had once been a math teacher; I was a math tutor.  She was also a massage therapist; I was a non-practicing physical therapist.  She once again flooded me with compliments about my teaching abilities and my knowledge.  I confided to her my fears about starting this business I’d dreamed about for so long.  She listened and then explained them all away.

Our bond sealed, she told me her plan.  She was interested in teaching her organizing method (upon which she had written a book!).  You know how there are some people who could organize themselves if someone just gave them the basics on how to do it?  Well, that’s her method.  Her idea was to have a three hour one-on-one session with those folks: teach them her method, help them get started, and then leave them to use what they had just learned.  She explained that this will work great for some people but that there are others that will realize they need more help.  “At my age, I’ve realized there are things I don’t want to do, and so I’m not going to do them.  This course that you’re teaching?  They asked me to teach something like this a while back.  But I wasn’t interested, so I said no.  And I’m glad I did because they found you!  And you do such a good job!”  She explained that, similarly, she no longer wants to do long-term organizing projects.  “So if people need more help than just my initial session, I’d be happy to refer them to you.”

I couldn’t believe it.  She was actually going to refer people to me?  I hadn’t even really started yet, and already I had someone ready to send people my way.  Funny enough, this wasn’t the first time this had happened to me.  Sometime ago I’d moved to a new area and wanted to tutor students in math.  I called around to high school guidance offices, explained my services, and dropped off information packets.  One office referred me to the head of their parent group.  When I called and told her of my services she said, “Oh.  I tutor students in math.”  That shut me up quick – why on earth would she want to talk to me now?  But before I could doubt myself too long, she continued: “And I have many more calls than I have spaces for students.  Let’s meet for coffee and if it works out, I can refer to you the students I can’t fit in.”

You see, as Barbara Winter says, there’s more than enough business to go around.  And entrepreneurs generally want to help other entrepreneurs (if they don’t, they won’t be in business too long).  Thankfully, I’ve learned that lesson more than once.  And will be happy to pass it on in the future.

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