Marketing strategist Lynn Serafinn challenges the ‘think big’ mentality, and shows how cash flow, not big bucks, is the key to a sustainable, ethical business.
About 8 years ago when I was still working as a life coach, I seemed to be getting several UK clients who had gone to an event by a world-famous personal development celebrity of the day. You know the ones – massive arena events where people are encouraged to dream big and end up doing a fire walk in bare feet. These clients said they felt depressed and didn’t know why. They had felt so high and powerful during the event, and for several days after – like they could achieve anything. They felt confident and exhilarated. But after a few weeks (which soon turned into months), the endorphin high they had experienced during the event took a nosedive and left them feeling deflated.
These clients were suffering from what I call the ‘Adrenaline Effect’. This is when the energy of a moment triggers heightened emotions, releasing hormones like adrenaline and endorphins, which then go racing around our nervous system like lightning. It’s like being drugged (well, endorphins are drugs; the whole reason people take recreational drugs is that they trigger endorphins). And like any drug that brings you up, there’s going to be a crash afterwards.
What was frustrating for me was that many of these Adrenaline Effect clients came to me in hopes of recreating the high they had felt in the arena. In truth, there are many coaches out there who are willing to accommodate; but I’m not one of them. I felt like the best service I could give these Adrenaline Effect clients was to help them understand this ‘crash’ wasn’t a failure on their part, but the result of being sucked into the extreme ‘high’ of the moment. Some of them came to understand this, and learned to shrug (or even laugh) it off with time. These people eventually were able to look back on the experience with fondness, remembering the ‘rush’ it gave them, but without attaching too much emotional importance to it.
But others couldn’t let go of it. They had come to identify with the experience, and they wanted it back. As a result, they kept going to one personal development event after another, trying to regain that elusively short-lived high they had come to associate with a feeling of personal power. Really, it’s a kind of addiction.
There is such a thing as a ‘personal development junkie’.
Mixing Endorphins with Money Matters
Unfortunately, there are many gurus in the personal development world who rely upon this adrenaline/endorphin effect in their work. Some of these come from the body of coaches who preach that you should charge ‘what you’re worth’. Like the celebrity mentioned above, such coaches challenge the limiting beliefs of their audience, encouraging them to think big. In this case, the goal is to get clients to dare to dream of monetary figures that ‘take their breath away’. In fact, if it doesn’t take their breath away, they’re told they are still thinking within their limited mind-set. In this way, the client is encouraged to ask the Universe for more and more until it almost feels like too much.
I can understand the intention behind getting people past their limiting beliefs; it’s a valid and important aspect of coaching. The trouble is, when we pull numbers out of a hat based on how much adrenaline is pumping through our bodies at the time, there’s no business logic to back it up. I agree that many independent business owners undervalue themselves; but setting financial targets or deciding your prices for your products and services shouldn’t come as a result of heightened emotions, but from a sound and sustainable business model.
Unfortunately, I have found very few people who seem to understand how to do it. That’s why lately I’ve been working with a LOT of my clients on their pricing. And for most of them (or at least, so they tell me), it’s been a very enlightening experience.
Why Pricing Isn’t About YOU
Even if you are a one-person-band, setting your prices isn’t about YOU; it’s about your business. It’s not about what you’re worth (or even about what you want) but about what it takes to keep your business alive and well. As an entrepreneur, your goal should not be to stay alive, but to ensure your business stays alive and thrives. And one thing I’ve learned about keeping a business healthy is that it’s not as much about profit as it is about cash flow.
Cash flow is like oxygen to your company – it breathes money in and it breathes money out. If your company doesn’t get enough money, it will suffocate and go under. During those times, you might be tempted to bail it out with loans or by getting another job; but this is like being chain smoker and thinking you’ll breathe better if you carry a respirator around with you all the time. Your attempts to keep your business alive by such means are futile because you’re not addressing the cause of the ‘disease’ from which it is suffering – lack of oxygen (i.e. cash flow).
For the chain smoker, the first step to health would be to quit smoking. But this act alone will only will stop impeding the flow of oxygen into the body; it will also be necessary to increase the lung capacity so they can absorb more oxygen and thus circulate it throughout the body.
Drawing upon that analogy, we can start to understand what it takes to create a healthy business. We need to ensure that what is going OUT of our company isn’t sucking the life from it, and we need to be certain that what is coming in not only meets its operational needs, but exceeds them. This gives us ‘room to breathe’. Only when our company has this breathing room can we create, grow and evolve.
Bringing Logic Back into the Money Equation
One of the services I offer my clients is product development. Mostly, these are service products – training packages, corporate services, medical treatment packages, coaching packages, etc. A crucial part of the product development process is determining the right pricing for the product. The ‘right pricing’ must ensure that the company will be in a state of regular, positive cash flow once the products take root and start to sell.
My approach to the process is logical – not emotional. We start by looking at your outgoings, and differentiating between what is necessary and what is not. We look at all the ‘moving parts’ that comprise the operational ‘machine’ that is your business. Your website, computer, software, subscriptions, staff, admin assistance, office rental, travel, utilities, etc. are all part of that machine.
If clients have got themselves into a situation where their business has become dependent upon credit for its operations, I encourage them to make getting RID of these debts (and not creating more debt) their FIRST priory. I believe credit card culture – and the vile propaganda that our financial reliability is measurable by our credit ratings – has done more damage to our ‘developed’ society in the last 50 years than just about anything else. What I’ve seen is that, more often than not, eradicating debt is not so much a matter of making more money, but of overcoming the psychological and emotional dependency on credit. I could get on a soapbox and go on and on about this (it’s something I touched upon in the book The 7 Graces of Marketing), but for now, suffice it to say that to improve your cash flow, you have to cut up the plastic and then pay it off – all of it. Your repayments also need to be factored into your product pricing structure (but, of course, you have to make sure you actually use the incoming cash to pay the debts!).
Once we’ve looked at all your outgoings, we next have to consider how many customers/clients you anticipate being able to serve each month (I recommend being modest with this figure). Then, if we divide those total outgoings by the anticipated number of clients, we can see how much we need to charge for our services simply to pay for themselves (not even to pay us).
Only then do we look at what we want to ‘make’ – how much we want to earn for ourselves – and add this to the baseline fee we just came up with. The trap I’ve seen many small business owners fall into is that they start by setting their fees at this point, and THEN take out their expenses. This gives them a false sense of security. They think they’re making X number of dollars an hour, but in reality they’re making half that figure.
The other trap many small business owners fall into when setting prices is that they fail to look at every moment they are putting into their business. Ask yourself:
- Are you answering emails?
- Are you writing blogs?
- Are you reading or writing reports for clients between meetings?
- Are you spending time doing the bookkeeping/invoicing?
Every moment you spend on your job counts for something, and…
…you need to get PAID for it!
This is not a matter of getting over limiting beliefs. This is simply a matter of not giving your precious time away. I find it really interesting that so many service professionals I meet say they want to increase their prices to reflect ‘what they’re worth’. But their struggle with money has usually far less to do with their self-perceived worth or self-belief than it does with their neglect to create systems to ensure they are getting paid for all the ‘little’ things they do within their business.
Because these figures reflect the ‘breath’ of money in your business – breathing money in and breathing money out – they become a sustainable system. With this system, we have a foundation upon which we can create any number of service products together. Because they are priced in a sustainable way, all these products have the potential to create consistent, healthy cash flow within your business (of course, it goes without saying that success also depends upon creating the right marketing strategy for them).
One of my longest-standing clients has now created about six service packages with me over the past couple years. After we launched the first two, she told me her cash flow had doubled in the first month. Suddenly, she was ahead of her expenses and was able to plan ahead in her business. After a few months, she was able to see a significant increase in her personal income that has continued to this day.
To Serve and ‘Live Comfortably’
These days, so many financial gurus out there like to dangle the ‘carrot’ of becoming six-figure, seven-figure, eight-figure or even NINE-figure earners to attract (lure?) customers to their programs. In my observation, many of them are replicating the same old Adrenaline Effect I discussed at the top of this article. Dreaming big is great, but unless it’s backed up with sustainable business systems, your wings are likely to melt before you get anywhere near your envisioned goal.
Personally, I believe the two primary goals of any social entrepreneur / ethical business owner should be:
- To serve
- To live comfortably
Service is essential. If we are not serving, we are not ethical business owners. It’s as simple as that. Our work must be helping make the world better in some way. We must be helping people and/or planet to be happier, healthier, safer, wiser, more empowered, more peaceful or just plain better in some way.
Living comfortably is equally important. If we cannot live comfortably from our business, the business will not survive. If the business does not survive, we cannot serve. To me, ‘living comfortably’ doesn’t mean ‘rich’; it means I have enough cash flow that I don’t have to worry if business is a bit sluggish. For me, ‘comfortable’ means:
- I always have four to six months’ worth of mortgage and taxes tucked away in my savings account long before I need to use it.
- I have NO credit cards or loans, and am incurring no interest (except my mortgage, which I think is a forgivable exception).
- What I see is what I get; in other words, what I pay today is for things I am buying today, not things I bought five years ago.
- I can plan ahead, both in business and in play.
- I am not a millionaire (or anywhere close to it!), but I always feel like I have ‘plenty’ of money.
- I wouldn’t say I have ‘money to burn’, but when I really want something (like a trip to visit my cousins in Trentino this summer), I plan for it and get it.
- I don’t feel ‘crowded’ in my time or finances.
- I enjoy my work. It find it interesting, creative and satisfying.
- I have ample time for myself and my non-business pursuits.
- I am basically a happy person.
In other words, ‘living comfortably’ means that money works for me and not the other way around. I am a servant to my customers, but I am not a slave to my job.
That’s when being an ethical business owner becomes fun. You feel a wonderful sense of satisfaction in your work, while experiencing a delicious sense of creativity and FREEDOM – especially with regards to money.
That is also when ‘earning what you’re worth’ and ‘giving your business what it needs’ are no longer at odds with one another, but have become one and the same.
If you’d like to explore how to create a sustainable system to give your business what it needs, I invite you to check out my Product Creation & Copywriting Packages on the ‘Work with Us’ page on this site. If they spark your interest, feel free to drop me a line via the Contact Form on this site to request a free 30-minute Skype chat to discuss your needs.
21 May 2015
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketing strategist, social media expert, 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 is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s 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. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.