THE BLOG
05/14/2014 03:26 pm ET | Updated Jul 13, 2014

Are You ATM'ing?

If it's okay with you, I've invented a new term called ATM'ing. ATM'ing is not a good thing and may limit your business success and progress. It's a form of short-term or short-sighted thinking Vs. having patience, sticking it out or being willing to try things that might not work in the spirit of eventually getting it right. Stay with me and I'll explain.

More than a few friends have asked me lately how, in a relatively short time, I've managed to take a small production company in Orange County, open a second office in LA and land big projects.

The short answer has nothing to do with a "short" amount of time or anything -- believe me. But I will say this: I can credit my limited success to being generous with my time and talent and long-term thinking.

My friends who are struggling seem to be doing what I call ATM'ing. ATM'ing means you ONLY look at others: clients, partners, friends etc. as your way to withdraw cash. You might be one of those guys who's trying to calculate the ROI of every move you make. You might be in financial trouble with your back against the wall. You (need to) make immediate cash withdraws from clients or partners because you're desperate to pay the bills -- I get it.

The problem is, you don't (ever) make, intend or think about making deposits. If you can't get cash (quickly) aka ROI from these sources, you bail.

There are lots of reasons this approach doesn't scale. First, it's inherently selfish. Mentor and friend Gary Vaynerchuk once asked, "What's the ROI of having a mother?" Some things are very difficult to measure but we can all agree they have value.

Secondly, ATM'ing is short-sighted. I'll bet my friends have passed up hundreds of opportunities because these things don't look like ATM's or guaranteed pay outs.

Sure, we live in a cash economy, but have you ever considered teaming up to leverage the trade economy? For example: You're a photographer that gets asked to produce a large event. Someone you find in your circle runs an event company and she hires photogs.

For this one-time thing, you need a photo booth, red carpets and up-lighting but can't justify investing $25,000. Team up with her! Share resources. Trade photo work for her equipment. Form a strategic partnership. Save your money and figure out how to trade work and help each other.

Win-Win. Old concept but have we forgotten how to do this? And do we have the chops? She is NOT your ATM and you're NOT hers. It's a mutual sacrifice and gain. Keep in mind that this is more like a last-man-standing contest where ROI doesn't always happen right away. But long-term thinking wins.

Collaboration only works if (and this is a BIG if) partners have the vision and patience to stick it out. Too many of us say we can hang but ultimately give up when things go sideways or get difficult; do we have the endurance and guts to see it through? We want a return on our time, effort and money in 20 minutes or even six months!

Are you ATM'ing?

I would love to hear from you about this. Leave a comment below or Tweet me @BryanElliott.