In the last month I’ve had some interesting conversations on value and money.
Money is a tricky and unsettling thing. Many don’t want to acknowledge their desire for it; many don’t believe they’re worthy of it; and many, want it so much that they do things that are conniving and beneath them to attain it.
I’m in the middle. I have always said, I want enough to be comfortable. That means I want enough to travel, retire comfortably, but most importantly, allow me to be here in the now. That means, buy the healthy food my body craves, and the yoga pants I desperately need. It also means help my Mom who can use some extra comfort in her life, and my little brother finishing his second year at Arizona State University. It also means not falling into the trap that my parents fell into, after all both of my grandparents didn’t move their families to end up scraping pennies.
As I’ve gotten older and realized that I value the way I make my money and the way I spend my money, I’ve reconsidered my notions on money. Money is something we give value to. It has absolutely no meaning other than that which we create for it. A few years ago, thanks much to my father’s death, I realized that no amount of money was going to make that better, and/or make me feel better. The things that made me feel better were basic: good food, good people, and amazing experiences. By amazing experiences, I mean any experience that opened my eyes a bit and left me feeling awe whether in a small gorgeous town in Italy, or on the 7 train from Manhattan to Queens, or my morning talks with my old neighborhood pal Peter in Astoria.
The thing is I’ve always spent my money on things I value. Even if it is a cheap item, at that time, I valued it and even if nobody talked me into that idea, I somehow created that idea of value enough to part with my dollars. I think about this often as I interact with customers and potential clients. See, while I am offering a final product in the end, what I start with is a service. That service may seem intangible at first, but over time, after an initial conversation, or a few emails, that service becomes tangible. The process becomes a bit more apparent and then, finally, after a week or more, a product comes to be. That product becomes a piece that shares your story with the greater World, whether your loved ones attending your wedding, or your friends attending a child’s birthday party, or even a potential client of your own, buying a product you’re offering that I helped you brand. That final piece of paper, or pieces of paper tell your story and showcase your uniqueness and there is a deeper value in that than in, say a Mickey Mouse wallet that was made with cheap plastic in China and for sale at Disney World, or that cheap tank top purchased at H&M for $15, but will unravel at the seams after four wears and washes.
Now, I’ve heard on quite a few occasions, “people are just going to throw away the paper,” or “in my industry we don’t pay before we see results,” or my favorite, “it’s not in our budget.” These are all respectable comments and issues, but what they all point toward is your own perception of value. Yes, I know people are going to throw away paper, but that doesn’t stop me from sending the endless letters and invitations I send. The only times I’ve stopped myself from sending a Christmas card was when time did not allow me;when I had not prepared properly. The only time I don’t pay for a service is if I truly believe that I won’t see results at that time, or when I know that I will not invest the proper time that the service requires. The only time I say, ‘it’s not in my budget, or I can’t afford that” is when I don’t have the money in my account. But, I should add I make a note of how badly I wanted said item or product and decide I’m going to save toward being able to make the purchase. In other words, I reflect on the why behind the statement and proceed accordingly.
When I am on the receiving end of these statements, I immediately wave the red flag. These statements find within me 1. a part that understands and 2. a part that wants nothing to do with this sentiment. See, I determine my worth and my job as someone in business and the passionate paper wizard that I am is convey that worth and value. When I hear these words, I know I did not sell my services and goods the best I could. I also am aware that the people I have invested time and energy into were probably not my right target market. I’m in no way saying that my products are only for a certain sect of people, but the reality is my products and services are for a certain sect of people. They are for the people who value high quality materials, customer service, and work ethic. They are people who realize that they can’t do everything themselves, nor do they want to do everything themselves.
The reality is that people determine their values and the values they place on every day needs. A person determines whether it is better to buy a $9.00 juice versus a $2.00 soda; or whether to purchase a $10 pair of shoes over a $100 pair. A person even decides if it is worth $2.50 to travel down or across NYC by train versus walking for free, or paying $10+ to take a cab. When I create a price, I am creating value for my time, my services, my creativity, and all the other work that goes into creating a custom product and service for my clients. I have great feedback from past clients, a skill-set that creates even more value, and examples of previous products to back me up and to further advance my value. However, Those clients have every right to determine their value and go elsewhere. In most cases, I will let them go elsewhere. I’ve learned no to fight or attempt to win back the customer, unless they are a good friend of mine, and even then, I’m not going to change my values and what I stand for in an attempt to get money.
That is the crux of it – money. Again, I want money as much as the next person, but I no longer want to make money in a way that causes my heart to bleed slowly every day. I’ve spent almost 13 years of my life doing that and I don’t want anything to do with it anymore. I want to make money making people happy and the way I make people happy is by creating custom goods for their events and for their communication needs. Using the quality products I use and the amount of time I spend working on getting the right fit and creating a truly custom and unique product and experience is expensive and therefore involves a value perspective that is greater than just your average perspective. It also requires quite a bit of heart. I shop from my heart and I want my customers to shop from their hearts too. I realize that’s asking for a lot these days, but there are quite a few that already do so and those are my people and the people that can and will change the market place in due time.