What not to ask a business owner – can I pick your brain?

August 8, 2017 by

Hi Angela,

I’ve been trying to get in touch with you to pick your brain about Wandering Cooks. It’s such an interesting concept and I’d really like to set up something in Canberra. I’m in Brisbane on Friday and would love it if you could show me round.

Looking forward to hearing from you,


I receive this request quite regularly and although I used to let the creatures feast on my brain a little, now I swat them away. I thought my latest response might be useful for other business owners who receive similar requests – who may have gathered some momentum, may be demonstrating success in something that seemed undoable.

It’s also useful for people who like to pick brains… to encourage them not to. Please cease and desist or at least first think about what you’re offering in return for such a feast. You better have a mighty tasty offering to make first, because if you wait til you’ve piss us off, it’s too late to go back and try again.

Hi Cheryl, 

I did get your messages but I’ve been busy, and also (to be completely honest) I find requests like this (which I get often) a little confronting. You’re asking for my time and my experience in order to benefit your own new venture, without giving any sense to the why. Why would I want to give you this valuable information? Who are you and why do you deserve it? What kind of passion, dedication, affiliation or real offers of partnership are you showing me? Have you been hardly done by in the world and deserving of an extra leg up that others aren’t? Or have you read all the information I’ve already put out into the world about how I started up my business, what advice I can offer others who wish to learn, lose, fail, succeed, make beautiful things happen, and are dearly wanting more? And are you assuming I have no plans on Canberra myself? I have worked enormously hard to create a Wandering Cooks here, so why wouldn’t I be thinking about taking it elsewhere? I’ve had no external funding for what I’ve done here. It’s been a really tough road. If I said yes to all the requests like yours, I would be doing tours for other people’s plans on a regular basis and burning my own business’s future potential in the process.
I’m sorry to sound so brusk about this! But I don’t want to sugar coat it as I do think there are much better ways for you to approach your information gathering from business owners like myself, who’ve had to fight their way to where they are currently. Please don’t ask to pick their brains either.
all my best,

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