I’ve been thinking a lot about congruence these days. The more I develop my own business, and the more I work with clients in developing their own brands, the more I see that no matter how ‘good’ someone may be in what they ‘do’ if they are not congruent with my values, they are simply not a good match for me.
Here’s a story about something that happened this week to show you what I mean.
A few months ago, I hired a new accountancy company, who just completed my 2011-12 tax return. They did a very thorough job and were very professional. I cannot fault them with anything they ‘did’. Their bookkeeping was accurate, their business accounting was sound, and they filed my return quickly and professionally. Their fees were slightly higher than I was used to paying with my old accountant, but nothing too extortionate. So while I didn’t feel a very ‘personal’ connection with them compared to the more casual relationship I had had with my previous accountant, I thought As long as they do the job properly, it’s all good.
However, this week I receive two very strange letters in the post from my new accountants. Neither was a personal correspondence; both were what I would classify as ‘junk mail’, although presented in a very formal letter with the company letterhead.
The first was an out-and-out sales letter with a coupon with BIG bold letters saying I had FREE ACCESS to some new ‘Business Growth System’ supposedly worth £5,996.40 (that’s about $10,000 to you in the US).
Now while I admit I didn’t want to enter my name and email to find out what it was (and…damn…they said they were be verifying that we were legitimate clients, so I couldn’t enter one of my ‘incognito’ names and emails I reserve for such occasions), I have been approached in the past by SO many supposed business growth gurus who have tried to hawk business growth products, and they’re typically either pyramid schemes, ‘cookie cutter’ business models, online planning or goal-setting software, or supposed one-stop technological ‘solutions’ for web design templates that are usually aimed at people who are still in the dark ages and have no idea how to leverage the world of social media, blogging and digital marketing. Nine times out of ten, this supposed ‘bargain’ will offer you only a taste of what the ‘super-duper-nifty-deluxe’ package can do, which of course they offer to you at an incredibly ‘reduced’ price (well…reduced from their over-inflated estimate of what it is supposedly worth).
Such promotions are not only ludicrous, but also clear examples of the ‘Deadly Sin of Deception’. They are never worth what they say, always try to get you to spend your money on something even more over-valued, and they all too often prey upon people’s ignorance about technology.
Because I couldn’t get ‘in’ to their back office, I checked the footer of the website and found the company who set up the supposed growth system, and found a very typical ‘free video’ website (using Optimise Press theme for WordPress exactly as it comes out of the box) offering accountants a free video series that can teach them how to ‘dominate their competition’ (they used this term more than once on the page). If you’re a 7 Graces fan, you’ll remember that ‘Competition’ is the last of the ‘7 Deadly Sins of Marketing’ and that it only results in looping us back up to more and more Disconnection.
As if this weren’t enough, I received yet another piece of ‘junk mail’ from my accountant’s office today, with these words emblazoned across the first line of the letter in bold black letters:
‘Are you protected against the cost of an HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Investigation?’
After that opening line, the letter went on with the very obvious and deliberate intention to instil genuine FEAR in the reader, saying:
‘New legislation has widened HMRC’s already significant powers to allow less formal enquiries and visits to your premises.’
(bold is in the original letter)
And what is my accountant trying to sell me? An insurance policy, which is supposedly ‘good news’ because their ‘insurer is offering new clients a substantial discount where paid by 31 August 2012. (bold and underline in the original letter).
So, basically, my accountant is actively informing his clients about something they knew nothing about so they could get just paranoid enough to buy an insurance policy from him. Mind you, using fear in marketing is the cornerstone of the entire insurance industry; they need to keep finding new ‘monsters’ for us to fear so they can get us to buy new products.
Egad! This is MY accountant?
If you’ve read my book The 7 Graces of Marketing, you’ll remember that ‘Fear’ is one of the ‘3 Furies of Marketing’ (along with Sex and Humour) and how you will find one or more of them at the foundation of nearly every example of ‘old school’ marketing on the planet. In fact, it’s such an old and crusty tactic I’m surprised my accountant is even using this strategy.
And it’s also guilty of the ‘Deadly Sin of Persuasion’, where the marketer will use any technique to make a sale. Again, if you’ve read the book, you’ll remember the contrast between ‘Persuasion’ and the ‘Grace of Inspiration’:
With Inspiration, we feed our customers
With Persuasion, we feed upon our customers
And then, of course, there is the ‘Deadly Sin of Invasion’ because I never asked my accountant to send me such junk. It’s come into my house and now I have the responsibility of putting it in the recycling bin. How many other people are just tossing it into the trash adding to the ever-increasing piles of junk in our landfills?
And finally, what about the ‘Deadly Sin of Disconnection’? As I’m reading this junk mail I’m thinking that I cannot believe this is coming from my accountant, who supposedly knows all about my business. I find myself wondering:
DOES this guy know ANYTHING about me? Does he realise the absolute absurdity of him sending me this rubbish considering the book I wrote and the work I do? Does he CARE? Does he actually believe he’ll ‘sell’ me something using the very same unethical marketing strategies I took two years to research and 400 pages to discredit?
And then I’m thinking:
Gosh, could I be any LESS congruent with this accountant (and his marketing director)?
It’s Friday night, so he has no way of knowing I fired him tonight.
Then, a thought came to me. If people like myself and others in the 7 Graces Community promote themselves as ‘ethical businesses’, maybe there’s someone out there who promotes him/herself as an ‘ethical accountant’. After all, we’re going to be registering the 7 Graces Project soon as a social enterprise. There must be accountants out there who not only specialise in social enterprise accounting, but who make a practice of being ethical themselves.
So I went onto Google and did a search for ‘ethical accountant UK’. All I got were a bunch of articles people had written about the legal requirements for social enterprises and charities, but I didn’t see any accountants listed.
So I decided to be blunt with Google and I typed in the words: I want an ethical accountant UK. Here’s what I got:
If you know an accountant in the UK who can pass the 7 Graces ethical barometer test, please let me know. If you don’t know what the 7 Graces are, please check our Mission Statement page (or pick up a copy of the book). If you’re on the same page as we are, come join The 7 Graces Global Garden Facebook group, as we form the vision of the fledgling 7 Graces Project together.
AND…let me hear YOUR opinion:
- Would YOU stop using a service provider or business partner because their behaviour was incongruent with your values?
- Under what circumstances would you prefer to repair or salvage the relationship by explaining your position to them?
- At what point would you decide there’s no point in trying in trying to fit a square peg in a round hole?
- Do you think tolerating business and marketing practices that are against our values is the more compassionate choice or something that allows unethical behaviour to become ‘the norm’?
Please share your views below!
~ Lynn Serafinn, 10 Aug 2012
UPDATE JANUARY 2013:
Since posting this article, I HAVE found a brilliant accountant (through a referral from someone in our 7 Graces Community) who is not only ethical, but also highly experienced with setting up and doing taxes for social enterprises. He’s also VERY nice, as are the rest of his team in his firm. Have to say, my faith in the industry has been restored. 😉
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. In her work as a promotional manager she has produced a long list of bestselling mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.
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