The Experts Dilemma

Imagine you’re a plumber. You have spent decades at your craft — first as an apprentice, then journeyman, and finally becoming a master.

One day, a dear friend calls you, with desperation in their voice, and tells you their corporate office has a massive slab leak and they don’t know what to do.

During the call you teach them how to turn off the water, minimize the water damage and pinpoint the leak. You walk them through 3 options of how to fix the leak (re-route, restoration or full repipe).

Your dear friend asks scores of questions about cost, implementation and longevity of the work. You’ve fixed hundreds of slab leaks, from simple to complex and are able to answer these questions accurately. Your friend is very impressed, has taken copious notes and thanks you for everything.

Here comes the dilemma.

Your friend asks “Will you recommend 2–3 plumbers who you like and respect to do this work for us?”. All at once you feel a bit used and disappointed. Surely, your friend knows you are a master plumber and could do an incredible job for them. Why else would you share your time, advice and help if not to get some benefit?

The thing I’ve learned is, it’s more important to be a friend than an expert.

Not every conversation has to be a transaction. Not every good thing you do for someone needs to directly benefit your pocketbook or ego. Looking at our friends and community as opportunities for more business will always lead to resentment and broken relationships.

You never truly know how your good deeds and karma will impact you in the future — but I can promise they will. People remember when you help them, and it may not be tomorrow, next week or even next year, but at some point you will be paid back manyfold for your free advice and help.