Society at large seems to have a strange idea of what success means. The bottom line that decides whether someone is successful or not generally comes down to how much money that person is making. It doesn’t matter so much whether they’re happy in their work, whether they’re helping others, whether they’re contributing to making the world a better place. There’s a concept out there that success equals profit, at any cost.
Most of us know somewhere internally though, that this is a warped thought process. There’s a discrepancy in our feelings around our work when we’re living to this kind of standard. We may have trouble putting our finger on it, especially when we’re financially secure and have everything we thought we wanted. It may be difficult to understand why we’re finding ourselves laying sleepless at night with an unquenchable, deep sense of dissatisfaction, when we seem to have it all.
‘Profit at any cost’ is never going to be a model that provides us with true satisfaction. The pull of financial reward can certainly be very strong, but we’re not as emotionally connected to our money as we may think. As much as the promise of financial excess may lure us, money never looks at us and says “thank you, this product/service has changed my life!”.
There are two ways that profit-driven exchanges in business can be negative. You can either give the client poor value, meaning the client does not get what they’re paying you for, or you can end up allowing things that are not truly acceptable to you, which means you’re paying a very high price yourself for what you are providing. In either scenario, someone is getting the short end of the stick.
The way to avoid either of these outcomes is to approach your business with the aim of meeting your client’s needs, as well as your own. There is a middle ground, a balance, where both of your needs can be met.
Your focus in business should be on providing true value to others. Contrary to popular belief, customers do not need you to make unfair sacrifices of yourself. People generally need to feel as though they’re treating others fairly. The value you provide is defined not only by what you are offering to your client, but what you are not taking away from yourself.
Providing true value to our clients actually helps to meets both of our needs. As providers of a good or service, what are our needs?
- We need financial reward for our materials, time, expertise and so on, and some level of recompense is acceptable and fair in a business exchange.
- We may have a need to express something about ourselves to the world through our work.
- We need our working conditions to be good and to know that we are safe and protected.
- We need to have the opportunity to take care of ourselves and our other responsibilities.
- We need to know that we’re providing something with true worth and that we’re helping people to live better lives. There is no satisfaction better than knowing your have given a client something that can truly improve their life in some significant way.
- We need to know that our product or service is in line with our own personal value system.
What are the needs of clients?
- People coming to you for your goods or services are generally looking for something that will help them to improve their lives, their situations, or themselves.
- Clients need to know that their transaction has been fair and that they have received what they paid for.
- Most clients also seek a connection, an affirmation that their needs and concerns are heard and valued.
- Clients need to know that the service or product they’re considering purchasing is aligned with their personal values.
Whether you’re offering an oil painting, a menu planning service, a self-help seminar or a learn-to-crochet course, the common motivator for the purchaser is generally the promise of making something in their lives better or making them a better person in some way. These are the needs we appeal to most in any offering of a good or service. They are the crux of almost every advertisement out there, whether or not we actually provide what we’re promising.
Providing true value to others rules out promising more than we actually intend to give. Never give poor quality to your clients under a facade of lofty promises. This is a nasty way to do business and it takes away, not only from the client, but from us. Loss of reputation and personal pride is a steep price to pay just to sell someone something the client will undoubtedly be disappointed in. You should take pride in giving what you have promised; this should be the norm for you. It is simply an extension of your decision to live in alignment with your values.
Value-based motives match your clients’ needs with your own, ensuring that you both receive a positive outcome from your business interaction. Base your business model around providing the client with what they truly need and expect from you, without robbing yourself of anything that you need or compromising your values.
So the questions you should be asking yourself if you’re considering developing a product or service might look like this:
- Is this product/service offering something that is actually valuable, actually helpful, actually needed by the intended customer base?
- Am I able to provide this product/service at a price that will be fair to both myself and my customer?
- Am I able to advertise or promote this product/service honestly and without needing to hype it up or exaggerate its benefits in order to make the sale?
- Does this product/service line up with my personal values, for example ecological concerns, fair treatment of others in the work chain, and so on?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, it is time to reevaluate the product or service you are offering.
Obviously, a value-based model may not be the most profitable for you, at least in the short term. However, there is certainly a large and growing number of people who are fed up with being taken for granted, customers and providers both. If you are consistent and persistent, the hope is that you will build a customer base of people who appreciate the standards to which you hold yourself. These will be loyal and supportive clients who will enthusiastically recommend your business to their friends and family, and when this happens you will find yourself with a strong and healthy business in the longer term.
The only way we will ever be able to address society’s low standards in regards to business is by holding ourselves to higher standards in our own. These profit-first businesses are here because we allow them to be, and because we hold business to a lower standard than we should. Merely protesting isn’t enough to change it, we have to show that business can be better. The change starts with us.