06/02/2011 12:39 pm ET | Updated Aug 02, 2011

Support Small Businesses: Death to the "Hook-Up"

Not too long ago, I had a friend who opened a new restaurant in my neighborhood. I was very proud of his accomplishment and was not only willing to dine at his establishment, but would always take a few paper menus to share with my network so they could also experience his wonderful cooking skills and great service.

One day, after only two years in business, he told me he was closing. When I asked him why he had to close he gave me a few reasons. One was the lack of business traffic. Not everyone was a regular customer like me and few people took the time to do what I did and assist him in spreading the word to their network. Furthermore, of those close "friends" who did solicit his establishment, he had a serious problem with their unwillingness to pay full price. Sure, they might bring a few friends to eat at his restaurant, enjoy the good music, order multiple drinks from the bar, and get so full from the multiple orders of appetizers they had to put the main course in a take home container. However, when the bill came they went into full "negotiation" mode. Sometimes they would coerce my friend to take as much as half from the final bill's cost. For the times that he would stand his ground on the bill the evil looks of disgust were enough to make any person cringe, but the ensuing lack of further "support" was even more discouraging.

We must recognize that in many of our communities we have a serious problem with this "hook-up" mentality. The "hook-up" is essentially when those so-called friends realize that because of your elevated position/progress they are able to leverage your position for their personal gain. For business owners this is a constant dilemma no matter what your field. Restaurant owners get asked for a hook-up on the final bill, law firm owners are asked for a hook-up on the price for service to get someone out of trouble, financial planning firm owners are asked for a hook-up on a financial plan to "get their house in order," accountant firm owners are asked for a hook-up on taxes, supply store owners are asked for hook-ups on free goodies, freelance actors/actresses and comedians are asked for hook-ups for free tickets to shows, and the list can go on and on.

What is failed to be realized by those who request these "hook-ups" is on the other side of the request you have a service or product provider who has to make a living. Yes, it is nice to get a half price evening on the town ... but why do we do it at the risk of someone having to close shop just so we can have a good time or get free materials? If you are truly a "friend," shouldn't you be the first person in line to want to pay full price and support the endeavor of your friend? Especially if they are providing good service, why are we so unwilling to pay full price? We all know people who are the first in line to go deep into debt with money they don't have, to purchase things they don't need, from people they don't know. However, for those same people, when it comes to circulating the dollar in their community (thereby making their community stronger) and supporting their close friends they get offended when they have to pay full price!

In your community, there are many businesses. These businesses, if supported, will bring respectable traffic to your community. Restaurants, bakeries, law firms, doctor's offices, schools, libraries, and more are all a reflection of the upkeep and character of your community. Outsiders often get a sense of the community by the quality of service, experience and ambiance within the local community businesses. The physical upkeep of these businesses is often examined by drive-through visitors. Frequent investment is crucial to property value and quality of living. Time and money that flow through these community institutions will always be reflected in the property values and ultimately the quality of life for the community's residents. So be sure to pay full price when you dine at your friend's establishment, pay full price for services from your close buddy who is an accountant, and even go so far as to not accept a free book from your good friend who is a struggling author and pay him full price plus a tip for signing it for you. These are the investments that matter most to your network and community, and if we can effectively circulate our dollars for quality services and businesses we will begin to see the makings of a true economic recovery that is beneficial to all. I don't want to see another business close its doors, so let's join together to aggressively recommend good services/products and pledge ... death to the hook up!