Monday, July 21, 2008

Rethinking the Business Model

I have been in business for close to 20 years, and I must admit that for most of that time I have led with my heart instead of my head. I often give away the company store, so to speak — advice, information, time. All of that equates to money, money I never see because I don’t bill for it.

I trust people. I believe they are sincere and well intentioned. When they ask me what a project will cost I tend to underestimate and over deliver. It’s the perfectionist gene I guess. Everything I do must be the absolute best it can be. I never seem to figure that into my estimates.

I am never prepared for the instances when clients simply don’t pay. In fact, I am blown away when it happens. I have actually taken people to small claims court, only to discover that, even if I win the case, there is no enforcement of the verdict. Sometimes, the client is so illusive that the process server can’t find him. (The next day of course he is seen at Starbucks having a grand old time)

Teaching at the community colleges is not a get-rich-quick scheme, either. They pay $20 an hour — a teaching hour. That does not include preparation, materials above and beyond what the school will copy, gifts or meals for speakers who generously donate their time and talent, custom-made bookmarks, and parties at the end of each session. Money is obviously not the motivation for teaching.

I have friends who are sharp business people — right brained, practical, cautious. I promise myself that I will become more hard nosed and tough. Then, someone calls (who knows a friend or found me on Google or is on my website that very minute), and I cave in, forgetting all my promises. I answer their questions, share my knowledge, and get cauliflower ear from holding the phone. When I hang up I wonder if there is some deep psychological reason beneath my inability to say, “You know, the clock is running” or “This is what I charge for consulting.”

It may be as simple as having a mission, which, in my case, is to help writers write. On the other hand, many successful people have a mission and still manage to charge people for their expertise. Generosity is a lovely trait; being foolish is not. I think it was Einstein who said "If you keep doing what you've always done, you're going to keep getting the same result." (If he didn't say it, he should have.)

I think it's time to do things differently and see what the new result might be.


Miss Mae said...

I know that it's hard to get folks to pay sometimes. I'm always biting my nails, too, until that check arrives...**shew**...I breathe a sigh of relief when it does!

Miss Mae said...

I know that folks sometimes won't pay for the work we do for them. I'm always on edge until that check arrives...**shew**...then I breathe a sigh of relief.