Helping People as a Business Strategy

There are many reasons to start a business. To make money. To create something. To impact people’s lives. Or because working for other people may seem dull and unfulfilling.


However, the reasons people stay or are successful in business may change as they progress along their journey. They have with me.

When I set up a company in 2006, I wanted to run a graphic design business and make money. Now I’m more interested in communicating, helping businesses and making a difference in people’s lives.

I still want to make money! But my plans for my company and my business life are very different now.

What has caused this change? You!

I found out a long time ago that blogging for business was a great idea. This has created a fantastic platform of communication. I can help people via the blog and I also always get asked questions by people who contact me personally. And, in doing this, I have received a great business education from the visitors to this site.

Virtuous circle

There is a powerful virtuous circle that you can use to your advantage.


The more people you help. The more people know you. The more people ask you questions about their business. The more you understand about business needs.

The more you understand about what businesses want and need; the better your company will be at servicing these needs.

Helping everybody

Sometimes students ask me for advice about what to study (asking me about studying, that’s a joke!) or how to start a design business.

You may think somebody starting out on their business journey can not teach us much. Also, my advice may fall on deaf ears. But, even this is an education because I can learn why they do or don’t follow my advice and tailor it accordingly.

So I try to help anyone who asks, if I can.

When not to help

Once I was contacted by someone who wanted to talk about creating e-books. He said the conversation would be only 10 minutes and insisted I phone him as he was working at home that day.

We ended up talking for over an hour about e-books, PDFs, ePUBs, iPad apps and the like. I was angry after I put the phone down as I realised the guy had received one hour’s free consultation and I’d paid for the call.

But this was my fault. Firstly, I didn’t enter into the interaction with the intention to help. I was only thinking about money and thought his company would hire me to create e-books for them.

Secondly, I didn’t say before our phone conversation, “I’m sorry, I’m very busy today, we can only talk for 10 minutes.” I usually say this now as I find one-off conversations with no clear directions can easily become unproductive and a “10 minute rule” can help pinpoint the issue.

If you genuinely try to help people your questions will cut to the chase and expose someone who is wasting time.

What you can do!

The next time someone contacts you, whether to ask for help or to enquire about business, put yourself in their shoes.

Rather than selling your services to them, think what would be the best service to help this person.

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  1. says

    Great Tip, I agree with you we should add help in our Business Plan, because helping someone makes us interesting and good in their eyes, and it really works to get better results with your business.

  2. says

    I sincerely doubt it’ll work for me at all. well maybe for normal people but after all these years with Google search engine still resulted in no sales.

    • says

      Ahh, Betty, I’m sure it would. I appreciate having problems with Google as I’ve had them on other sites. Still, I’m sure you’re just as “normal” as me!

  3. says

    Some interesting thoughts in this post. As your business and business plan have evolved over the time you have been running, do you feel you do less of your originally intended work and more towards business consultancy? Or do you still predominantly do what your original business plan outlined?

    Reason I ask is if someone today was looking at creating a business plan, we would look at what we can offer to start; but, maybe as part of this we should also look at how we will evolve and put together a separate; say; 5 year plan of how to get there? I’m sure many people will say that their business evolved and what they do today is very different to when they started but maybe planning early enough you can plan how your income will evolve to build a stronger business?

    Also, lesson learnt here on point you said about putting time limit on calls, etc.

    • says

      It’s another interesting point you raise, Sean.

      Yes, my business is definitely offering more consultancy and less of what my original business plan outlined. I think it’s important to be adaptable. I’m doing a lot of work on responsive sites for clients who are iPad devotees and the iPad didn’t exist 3 years ago!

      In terms of 5 year plans, yes, I think it’s a good idea to have a general idea of where you want to be and how to get there but I would stress the importance of being responsive as well. It’s a fine line.

  4. says

    Coming from the honest and flexible perspective of “How can I help you?” is great classic customer service to keep in mind. I’ve also found that “Thank you for your help!” leaves vendors happy when THEY help YOU! I agree wholeheartedly that being upfront about your limits is important, because many helpful types can end up stressed, cranky and unpleasant from overextending ourselves. Doesn’t help, in the long run. :-)

    • says

      You’re making a very good point there, Tricia, spreading yourself too thin won’t help anybody. I think a lot of it comes with practice. After a while you realise when to help and in which situations you can deliver effective help quickly to the people who need it – rather than just getting stressed! :)

  5. says

    Such a good philosophy Rob. I also like what Tricia says. I’m a real sucker for time wasters and I’ve got angry with myself about it. I’m getting more relaxed now as a bit of extra idle chat has often paid back unexpectedly too. But, it’s a heck a job to get the balance right.

    • says

      You’re absolutely right, David, and I don’t think anyone gets the balance absolutely right. I get angry with myself too when I realise I’ve had my time wasted but I try to see what the situation has taught me – usually that escapes me, but I’m getting there!

      Thank you for your comment, as always.

  6. says

    Great post Rob. Becoming a reliable resource has always been a large part of our business plan. We’ve had our fair share of “if it’s free, it’s for me” people who don’t seem to value our time at all. Over the years, we’ve become pretty good at spotting these people early on, and directing them to web/print resources. This allows us to remain helpful, but doesn’t waste our time.

    • says

      That’s right, Anna. I think choosing the people you help is just important as helping people. It’s very important to help people who can make the best use of your help and not to waste your time. Thanks for the comment.

  7. says

    Thank you for sharing this post. I feel the same, I would love to make a business where I can help other people and have a positive impact on their lives. It should not always be about making money, it should be about what makes you happy and personally for me it would be helping others.

    • says

      Thank you, Johnnie, I’m sure you’ll find a way to help people in your business. We just have to take care of the bottom line first. :)

  8. Sylvester says

    Hi, Rob when I make my header the exact size 1600px by 230px for twenty thirteen theme it appears as if it is too wide and is partially hidden at each end. What can I do about this? Thank you.