Don’t Mess With Their Rice Bowl: Seven Business Lessons from Ten Recent Workshop No-Shows

 

rice bowl chopsticksI want to tell you a story.

I know that, on this blog, I share a lot of “how to’s” and philosophical pieces and there can be the risk of people thinking that because I generally post positive things, I must never mess up, I must have everything together and I must never get frustrated with clients.

Which is certainly not true . . .

This story has to do with something I heard Stephen Covey speak of years ago which was to never mess with someone’s rice bowl. It was an Asian proverb he’d heard. It meant, in essence, don’t mess with someone’s means of sustenance. Note that the aphorism isn’t “don’t mess with someone’s rice.” It is don’t mess with the bowl. The rice is one meal, but the bowl is the thing that carries their food and makes it possible to eat. In modern times, people’s businesses or computers are a sort of rice bowl. They are the things that make sustenance possible. If you run a workshop, it’s your rice bowl.

And recently, my rice bowl got messed with by ten people.

So I want to tell you the story of this and what I learned from it.

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At the end of February, I hosted a workshop in my living room in Edmonton.

My living room isn’t very large. It can accommodate about 12 people.

This means that my Edmonton workshops tend to sell out quickly.

And that means that once it’s sold out, people don’t bother asking about spaces or if they do, I have to turn them away and hope they might make it to a future workshop.

It means that, if people no-show without telling me, I lose money. On a day-long workshop, where the price is a $25 deposit and pay-what-you-can (PWYC) by the end, I tend to make about $100/person (in addition to the deposit). Because the workshop is PWYC, my only expectation is that you show up. Not that you pay a lot. Just that you show up. That’s it.

On this day, five people no-showed. They didn’t come and they didn’t, for the most part, tell me they weren’t coming.

And then again, just a month later, it happened almost identically. Five no-shows for a workshop of twelve.

Of course, most of my blog posts are trying to help you look at your business through the eyes of your potential customers; helping people see how their marketing might come across as gross or disrespectful.

But this one is also about helping you look through the eyes of the entrepreneurs you might be doing business with. I’m hoping to lift up the impact of your own conduct as a customer.

And . . . perhaps also to commiserate with you a bit, my dear reader, about shitty behaviour you’ve had to deal with from your clients and to offer you seven lessons on how to deal with it.

 

Here’s the story:

Both workshops started at 10am but in both cases, only six of the 12 people registered were present so I asked everyone’s patience to wait until more folks arrived. By 10:15am we just got started anyway. And the others never arrived.

After the first workshop was done, I realized thar I had accidentally left the “pay at the door” option on Eventbrite on and a few of the registrants had chosen that option. Which means they hadn’t had to pay the $25 deposit. It’s a rookie mistake on my part, and not the first time I’ve done it. Whenever people don’t show up for my workshops, it’s almost always the people who’ve not put down a deposit because they “promised” to pay at the door.

Classic.

So, that wasn’t great, but that was my bad. It’s not good behaviour on no-shows’ parts to not let me know, given how few spots there were in the workshop, but it’s predictable and I know better. I learned this lesson first in Seattle, when 36 people signed up for my PWYC weekend workshop and only 12 showed up because there had been no deposit asked of them. Since then I’ve required $100 down for the weekend workshops and no-shows have vanished. When I began doing day-long workshops, I asked for a $25 deposit, and hadn’t had an issue with no-shows . . . until these past two workshops.

Then I noticed that one of them had actually been on the waiting list and I’d forgotten to tell that person that they could now come as someone had dropped off the list. My bad again.

But, by the end of it all, there were still five people who had paid their deposits for the second workshop and simply not shown up. Ten people in total. Not even a courtesy message the night before or the morning of.

 

mfh-video-leftHere’s What Was Particularly Frustrating:

This was the first workshop in which I’d decided to give everyone my $80 Marketing for Hippies 101 video in advance of the workshop.

The pitch was that, before participants showed up, they’d get all of the content of the workshop and our day together could be 100% question and answer focused on applying the content to their own particular situations. It was, I knew, an experiment. It was my attempt to be generous with my people and also avoid my having to go over the exact same content again and again in my workshops. I’d hoped it might be a win/win.

And yet, it is the workshop with the highest percentage of no-shows I have ever had since instituting the deposit system.

Most generous offer = most no-shows?

What gives?

I was left with a sense of having been taken for granted at best or, at the worst, taken advantage of.

For someone who operates their business largely on trust (and is most often rewarded for that), it felt brutal. It’s the worst I’ve felt in business in years.

Looking through my email after the workshop I saw one message had come in that morning from a couple, but via Facebook and it landed in my “Other” inbox:

Morning Tad! My partner and I are registered For your workshop today. We are sorry we aren’t going to make it, our jobs at a show last night went much later than expected. We are happy for you to keep our donation of course and will keep an eye out for more of your workshops in the future. Our apologies again!

I felt grateful they’d let me know. And apologized. And . . . there was still a hint of . . . the fact that they’d not set themselves up well enough to be able to keep their word on attending the workshop. That if, let’s say, it had been a friend’s wedding, they either would have shown up, even if tired, or made sure they weren’t working so late the night before.

And so, after the workshop was done, I messaged those who had no-showed to see what had happened.

One of the responses felt 100% good. Some others felt mixed. And some, though well intentioned, felt downright awful. I will share their words here anonymously and my reactions candidly.

 

pain2The words that didn’t feel good:

“Unfortunately we were unable to attend. Feeling worn out and tired after to much travelling, we felt it was best for us to rest. We have been told wonderful things about your class and would love to attend in the future. Do you be having anymore classes coming up? We are located in Medicine Hat which is in the south eastern corner of Alberta. We are always open to travel to Calgary, Edmonton or Lethbridge. Would you ever consider doing this class in Medicine Hat? We look forward to hearing back from you.”

Unable to come. Because they were tired. That felt not great to read because it felt like a shirking of responsibility. It’s not that they were “unable” to come. They chose not to come because they were tired. They were tired because they arranged their travel schedule in such a way that it had led them be tired. If it had been important for them to make it, they would have made it.

Sure. Maybe it was best for them to rest. But what about me at the facilitator and host? And the other participants? What about the people who weren’t able to come because their spots had been reserved? Void in their note is any sense of the impact their behaviour had on others.

Also, the light tone that assumes I would even be excited, in that moment, to have them sign up for another workshop. Or that, having just bailed on me, I’d be so thrilled come to their corner of the world.

And most of all, why didn’t they email me the night before to let me know they wouldn’t be coming so I would, at least, have a fighting chance of filling the space. Or even the morning of. No. I had to email them to even hear that. Which feels deeply disrespectful.

Another:

I was so stoked for the workshop but sadly I have been so sick I wasn’t able to attend today. I hope everything went well and I hope to meet you one day as I loved the video and get a lot of inspiration out of it.

Ugh. Again, “wasn’t able to attend.” How about you just let a brother know as soon as you think it’s likely? So glad you enjoyed that video I put thousands into producing and that I sell for $80. Glad it entertained you. And again, this light tone of “hope to meet you someday” as if I’d be really excited to meet someone who totally bailed on my workshop and didn’t even think enough of me or the other participants to let me know.

Yet another:

Everything is ok. I was up late working and needed some sleep. It’s been a crazy work week for me

So, they chose to stay up late working and then decided the need for sleep trumped the need to keep their word,  my need for income from my work and someone else’s need to learn what was offered in the workshop. At a certain point, this is the inescapable algebra that they had to wrestle with. I understand having crazy-busy weeks. For sure. But I’m not okay with using that as an excuse to no-show. Especially with no notification.

And then this one:

Hi Tad, sorry I missed this… Two of my kids are sick and I hardly slept last night. :(

I get not sleeping. But, you can still let the workshop facilitator know you won’t be coming. You can set your alarm to wake you up to send an email. You could send me an email before going to bed. I didn’t get that message from her til 1pm. Three hours after the workshop had begun. And it was only in response to a message I’d sent out asking, “Are you coming?”

And:

yes, I was going to come with two others. Sadly it didn’t work out. I really do appreciate your words. So passionate and inspiring. Keep up the great work Tad. (Another time I hope. )

This one might have felt the worst. Again, it only came after I had written this person. And . . . it just “didn’t work out.” Huh. Not their fault. And who knows – this is me being extraordinarily cranky. There are, of course, all manner of reasons that would be entirely justifiable to not attend to my super duper important workshop at the last minute. I get it. I know it’s pissy. But it’s also how everyone feels when you break your word to them. This is desperately important to get. You can tell me, “I really do appreciate your words,” but if that’s not backed up with some sort of action, the feeling I’m left with is, “the hell you do.” Because, no-showing for a workshop and costing the facilitator hundreds of potential income dollars and others the chance to attend . . . that’s not how you treat someone you actually appreciate. And again, the assumption that I’d be so happy to have her come another time given her behaviour.

And, finally, my personal favourite:

I can’t make it today. Please pass my ticket on forward.  Thanks :)

Yes! You’re welcome! I’ll totally pass it onto that lineup of people I asked to be waiting outside of my door this morning just in case you canceled. I wonder who the lucky person will be!

The Words That Felt Mixed:

There were some participants whose words felt better because they were willing to actually do something to make ammends and pay for their spot.

“sorry my friend, we didn’t make it today for your workshop. we live in white court (2.5 hrs away), and it was just too treacherous a drive with all the snow this morning. really i just feel sorry for myself, for having missed it! i only moved to alberta a few months ago, before that i lived in toronto and that’s where i first heard about you, through a friend. so i was pretty excited when i realized i’d be able to take a workshop with you in edmonton! maybe next round – please keep me on your mailing list for workshop announcements. in the meantime… i have two questions: of your online materials, what would you recommend as most relevant for a yoga teacher/massage practitioner?  also, is there a way that i can send you a bit more money towards these amazing downloads that you provided as part of the workshop? i can’t give a lot, but i would like to give something. thanks for being such a cool dude and doing what you do.”

What didn’t feel good here was that I didn’t get this message until 3pm and only, so I thought, in response to an email from me. Which had me feel cranky. But, it turned out that, even though the email was later than I would have liked, it was sent entirely on her own initiative which feels good to know. The road conditions were very bad that day and I am glad they stayed safe. And they could easily have emailed me three hours before the workshop began. That would have felt really good. But, one of them sent me $60, unprompted, to make up for it which was incredibly gracious. So, overall, this felt good. The only part that didn’t feel good was it coming later than I would have liked and that I’d thought they were only emailing after I’d emailed them. Knowing it was sent unprompted is touching to know. It strikes me how much of this all comes down to feeling valued by people. Which, by the end, I did.

You probably already know, but I missed your workshop today. I really loved the video series that you sent out a few ago though and I know your event was pay-what-you-can, so I’d like to send you a cheque. Where should I mail it and who should I make it out to? Hope the day went well!
What didn’t feel great was they sent this after my workshop was over. What felt great was that they offered to pay something for having no-showed and to acknowledge the material provided. That’s incredible integrity. And then they saw my Facebook post from the morning of the workshop, “No showing workshops is bad behavior. Period.” and they wrote:
Oh gosh, I just saw your fb post about no shows. I’m now feeling super embarrassed….sorry to have caused any negativity today.
And that felt good to me, to feel like they were getting it – but also not-so-great because it seemed to be news to her that no-showing might cause some negative feelings. This is often our culture – woefully unaware of the impact of our actions on others.
But then she sent me $175. Which, I admit, felt better.

 

The Words That Felt Good:

Of all of the messages I received, this one felt best:

I’m registered in today’s class although I’ve come down w something, I was hoping it would pass and I could still attend. Do I pay for the video w pay pal? Although I was sick I don’t want to flake out. Any idea when you will offer this again?

It felt better because they sent it at 4am. That’s incredibly considerate. As soon as they knew they wouldn’t be coming, they let me know and offered to pay for the $80 video that was provided in advance. I get that things come up. I do. Life happens. If you just let people know as soon as you can, that’s all most folks want or need. In the end, even though they’d missed my workshop due to illness, they sent me $240 for my work, which felt . . . incredibly good and honouring.

Given the fact that the average PWYC donation was $197 per person that day it also meant that nothing was lost financially for me due to that person missing the workshop. And, because of their graciousness, you can bet I’ll be available to them for questions here and there and am excited to meet this person in a workshop when they finally make it to a day-long workshop as my guest (I won’t charge them at all as in my books, they’ve already paid). I did my best to be as generous as I could in communicating and they returned the generosity to me which made me want to give her more. I did the same with the person who sent me $175. The truth is that, while those amounts feel good and fair for the work and materials provided, it’s not really about the amount. It was that they wanted to send me something. They sent what they could. If it had been $20 I would have felt wonderful too because . . . that’s why I do PWYC. So this work can be accessible to whoever needs it. If they’d come, maybe they could only have paid $10. That’s fine. What is not fine, for me, from my perspective, is no-showing and then doing nothing to make up for it.

 

The Email I Would Have Loved to Have Received:

In my perfect dream world, this is the kind of email I would have loved to have gotten and, therefore, the kind of email I am committed to sending should I need to cancel last minute for a workshop. Imagine you’re a workshop leader and I’m bailing from your class but you get this email from me.

“Something has come up and it looks like we won’t be able to make your workshop. We wanted to give you as much heads up as we could, and wish it was more, in hopes that you might be able to find someone to fill our space. We feel awful because we know there were so few seats and that our missing the workshop means that others were turned away and might not get the chance. Of course, we know you’ll keep our deposits but we also got this video from you and we were wondering if we might be able to pay you for that to make it right. It’s not your fault we can’t make it. If there’s anything else we can do to make things good, please let us know because we respect your work in this world so much and wouldn’t want our inability to keep our commitment to come to take away from your ability to do your work in the future.”

I would have felt so good about that.

 

So, What’s The Solution?

One woman from England, upon reading an early version of this post said, “This man doesn’t make what he is offering important enough for people to respect him, pay in advance and make sure they show up to his workshops. That’s what he needs to be addressing.”

So, her stance is that, I don’t value what I’m doing enough and need to command more respect.

And this is where things get tricky.

The reality is that, again, until shifting the offer to add the video, I got very few no shows. Negligible. Adding the videos was an experiment and it turned out differently than I’d imagined it might. That’s life. This is not an endemic pattern in my life or business.

And aside from the arrogant tone of her knowing what I need in my life somehow, this whole idea of making what we offer ‘important enough’ for people to respect us is fraught with peril. First of all, it’s very connected to the troubles of the notion of charging what we’re worth and the way that many people walk around trying to command respect from others by posturing.

I run my workshops on a pay what you can basis. So, I don’t get all the money upfront. There are a lot of reasons I do this (some strategic and some altruistic), but a lack of self respect isn’t among them.

I want to suggest that the way forward isn’t a one size fits all approach but about finding a way of structuring your business and offers that feels good without needing to puff yourself up so that others value what you do and it’s more subtle than simply making what you do ‘more important’. I have no idea what that actually means.

 

Seven Business Lessons to Pull From This:

Lesson #1 – Don’t Tolerate Bad Behaviour From Clients.

Sometimes your clients behave badly. They do things that won’t work for you. It’s ok to be upset with your clients. When your clients do things that break agreements you have or are unkind or thoughtless, it’s okay for you to speak up and address the issue directly.

Too many entrepreneurs put up with it because they think “the customer is always right.” But this is not true. This feeds the bizarre, spoiled, community destroying and toxic entitlement in which we are constantly swimming as a culture. They collapse and say, “Oh. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine. No big deal.” because they don’t feel like their needs matter at all. They’re trying to be “nice.”

It’s far worse that this though because this niceness actually robs the other person of something. It robs them of their humanity. When we refuse to let people know that their actions impact us, for better or worse, we turn them into a ghost. When we refuse to be real with them we contribute to them being less real; we contribute to their loss of understanding of what real is.

Sometimes we don’t speak up because we know we’re guilty of the same things too. We know that if we speak to their lack of integrity, we are suddenly incredibly vulnerable to have ours pointed out to us too. So, it can feel easier and safer to let it slide with them in the hopes that they’ll give us the same pass when we drop the ball and flake on them. And if they don’t? Well, then at least we get to feel morally superior about how chill we were about them bailing and how uptight they are. Soooo… that’s something.

It’s easy to tell ourselves the story that, until we get our own integrity sorted out and are 100% consistent that we have no right to expect it of others. But I want to flip that all around. Yes, work on yourself. But let’s make part of that work about having good boundaries, about letting yourself respond honestly. When we hold others to a higher standard, it also calls up and galvanizes that in us. The more we consciously do it with others, the more likely we are to do it in ourselves. The act of holding someone accountable is a more visceral and real reminder about the importance of keeping our word than a year or meditation on the subject because it makes us vulnerable.

And, if, out of laziness, fear or just low standards, we don’t hold others accountable to their word, we won’t be able to court something better from the other, and that robs not only our business but the community of a more mature person.

This isn’t about punishing clients or calling them out. It’s about courting the possibility of a more whole village in which all of us could live.

Lesson #2 – Set Up Clear Cancellation Policies.

Giving away all of the content in advance was a small experiment (which we’ll talk about later). What I learned from that experiment was that, for whatever constellation of reasons, it dramatically increased the rate of no shows. That was reality. Adding those videos was literally the only thing I changed in the arrangement. I imagine a small part of the no showing may have been the guilt of them having not watched the videos and not wanting show up and be embarrassed by this but I think a big part of it is, even if unconsciously, the sense that, “Well . . . I’ve already gotten all of the content so . . . there’s no real need for me to show up.”

I’m open to doing this same offer in the future. But, if I do, I will have an iron clad cancelation policy that says: “If you cancel within 48 hours of the event, your credit card will be charged $100 as I won’t have the possibility of filling the space. If you no-show without letting me know in advance of this workshop, your credit card will be charged $200 for being an asshole.” Or something like that.

This is a common policy. My dentist does this for missed appointments. Many therapists and massage clients do this. I think it’s wise to have a cancellation policy because, without it, you leave yourself open to being taken advantage of by those raised in a culture that only ever taught them to worship at the altar of what-works-for-them.

Someone recently shared her version of Alexandra Franzen’s brilliant cancellation/no show policy wording (students have to tick the box indicating they have read this before payments are made):

“When you register and make your first payment, that’s my cue to block out a seat — and shoo other folks away if the class will be full. I prepare your 40+ page manual. I start crafting your name tag and graduation certificate. I start brewing and meditating on your journey that’s just beginning and holding you in my mind while I’m stuck in traffic.

I invest in you — just like you invest in yourself, by investing in this class. And that’s why, with exception of tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, avalanches and unforeseeable grief-stricken situations, I do not offer refunds for cancellations —which, to my delight, are fairly infrequent.

If you are in dire straights and need to reschedule your training to a later date, please please get a hold of me (via email or phone) as soon as possible — out of respect for me and my time to re-jig the class, and most importantly out of respect for those other fine souls I may have to turn away if a seat is not available. If a rescheduling happens in advanced, I will hold your payment until you are able to join me again. Because commitment is sexy, and extra time + energy goes into the process, an additional fee of $50 is charged to reschedule to another class. If less than 48 hours (2 days) notice is given, you will forfeit the entire $225 and rescheduling will happen with another full payment. That, my friends, is my Karma-Friendly Cancellation Policy.”

Lesson #3 – “It Matters That You Come” – Get Payment in Full Before or Set Up Deposits on PWYC Events.

If you decide to run a pay what you can workshop, I beg of you, get a deposit for it when they sign up. If you let them pay at the door, they’ll likely never end up arriving at the door at all. Make sure the deposit is enough that, if they cancel, you still feel good and you’re not out too much money. I used to not require a deposit and the no show rate was huge. Ever since adding it, until this recent experiment, it’s been negligible.

A colleague, Audrey Seymour wrote these words about an earlier version of this blog,

“Tad wrote a great blog post yesterday about how no-shows increase for workshops when you don’t require prepayment. This matches my experience, and when you look at it from the perspective of parts of the psyche, you can see the part that signed up and the part that is resistant to the shift that the workshop is likely to create. Requiring prepayment supports the part of the client that wants the shift. I found this to be particularly true when teaching Speaking Circles, helping people get past stage fright. I offered a prepay discount for a package of sessions, and I remember one client saying “I’m SO GLAD you offered that prepay package, because if I hadn’t prepaid, I never would have come back the second time. My fright was still so strong, and I would have missed this incredible transformation that has happened! Thanks for doing that.”

One of my colleagues Sue makes sure new clients read this before booking with her:

Please provide payment prior to your session, via PayPal (Internationally) or Interac Online (in Canada). If you encounter an emergency that requires you to cancel a session, please just let me know and we’ll schedule another at a time that works better. If you need to change an appointment time for any reason OTHER than an emergency, again, please contact me asap and we’ll find a good time for both of us.

Lesson #4 – Overfill Your Workshops.

No matter what you do, there will always be some no-shows at your workshops because “shit happens.”

People get sick.

Blizzards happen.

People’s cars won’t start.

In my experience, unless they pay everything in advance, you’re looking at a 10-20% no show rate. You’ll learn what it is in your own situation through experience. But, if you notice that you keep having 10% of the people not show up, then make sure you consistently sell 10% spaces than you need. If your workshop has a limit of 30 people, sell 33 seats.

Doing this is an immense relief.

And if everyone shows up? You’ve got three extra people. No big deal. And if, predictably, three people no show you or cancel so last minute that you can’t fill their spaces? You’re prepared and harbour no bitterness towards them because you already filled those spaces. If I’d done this in this situation, I wouldn’t have felt half as bad. How do you fill up your workshops? Read this, son.

Lesson #5 – Take Responsibility for Your Business.

This ties into all of the other lessons but the heart of it is this . . . as much as I bitch above about people no-showing and kvetch about their overall lacklustre responses, my business is my responsibility, not theirs.

The truth is that they are doing exactly what they need to be doing.

They’re just being themselves. They’re responding perfectly to the parameters of the offer I made. In their shoes, I might behave the same way. How they act is their business. My business isn’t to change them. It’s to notice how they’re being in response to what I’m offering and adapt to that. My business is to take care of myself while loving them as they are. But if I don’t do the former, the latter will prove impossible.

I have seen clients deal with clients showing up late or not at all for years and never do anything about it beyond whining and complaining. And, the longer that goes for, the more it becomes a story like, “People are inconsiderate” or “There must be something wrong with me.” etc.

My colleague Joseph Riggio who wrote the guest post for my blog Are You More Comfortable Being “Salesy” Or “Subtle” had this to say…

I do charge in full before people can attend my program and I have a very generous refund policy before the program begins, but they need to initiate it, because I don’t want to become responsible for them showing up and I make my living this way. If I want to give something away because I think someone needs it or I simply want them to have it I do that too. Currently I’m running a major certification training program (4 modules of 3 1/2 days, $9000 regular investment) and I gave away 12 spaces in it as a scholarship, and make another 6 available at a huge discount as a sponsorship. All the spaces were taken and I had zero no-shows. What I did was establish the importance of what the commitment I expected was up front and assumed responsibility for making sure my clients got it, 100% on me. IMO my clients are only able to treat me as I allow them to, and I never, ever take it personally. I work this way now because I totally get it. I been there before … i.e.: in a room “full” of no shows. I’ve also been the “no-show” in a room and while I pay for the space I haven’t occupied when I do that, I don’t feel guilty for not being present if the presenter hasn’t indicated that it’s important to the program and/or others who will attend for me to be there. When I get that, i.e.: my presence and not just my money is significant, I make a much more informed decision about what I need to do if I decide to register.

You have people no-showing you consistently? Do something about it.

You have clients who don’t treat you right? Say something.

You have clients not paying you? Change something.

This is your business and your responsibility.

Whining and blaming your clients is a dead end street that will leave you broke, bitter and full of resentment to the very clients you profess to love and want to serve. Don’t blame others for your own laziness or miscalculations in creating systems.

Lesson #6 – Reminders.

If you have a workshop, send a reminder about it 48 hours before the event. You’d be surprised how many people forget it’s coming up. Sometimes these emails will actually prompt people to email you and say, “I can’t make it.” and then you’d at least got a fighting chance of filling those spots.

Lesson #7 – Start Small.

I’m currently on tour. I’ll be leading eleven workshops. Only one of them is getting the same “here’s all the content free” deal because it was one of the first ones I set up. Thank God I didn’t plan out my whole tour like this. I decided I would test it in Edmonton and see how it went. But then I got so excited about it that I decided I would do my whole tour that way. Luckily, I led my first attempt at it at the end of February, before the whole tour was planned and noticed that half of the people no-showed. That was all I needed to decide not to do the whole tour that way until I understood the dynamic better. Then, just before going on tour, was the second workshop where the exact same thing happened. I felt annoyed and really frustrated, but also relieved that I’d been able to test small before going big.

Business and marketing are not guaranteed things. You’re always taking risks and experimenting with things. Every time you make a new offer, explore a new niche, change the name of something or try a new activity in a workshop – it’s an experiment. That’s unavoidable. The only thing you can control is the scale of the experiment. Too many people go big with every experiment.

In business this is called doing your due diligence. Any time you’re going to invest your time, money, reputation or energy in any significant amount, it’s vital that you investigate and test to make sure it’s worthy of it and will work. Too many entrepreneurs fail because they don’t.

To be clear: If I’d set up my whole tour this way, I’d be looking at half of the money for the same amount of effort. That would have been brutal.

I encourage you, whenever you’re thinking of changing something significant about your business or what you’re offering, start small.

 

The Community Lesson:

Everything we do and don’t do makes a wake, a legion of waves and troughs that pound the shores at the edges of what we mean, grinding away on the periphery of what we know. This goes on after the years of our private lives are long past. If we don’t learn that simple, devastating, and redeeming detail of being alive – that what we do lasts longer than we do, that the past isn’t over – then the parade of our days stands to indict much more than it bequeaths.”

–  Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

The business lessons above are important, but the lesson in community here is even more important.

Every action you make builds the village up or tears it apart.

If there’s a most important lesson that I’m taking from this it’s not to no-show other people’s workshops. That feels most important. Because I can be out of integrity all over the place. So this blog post, while coming from a cranky place, isn’t coming from any place of moral superiority.

I just had this chat with a friend on Facebook about this:

Friend: “There’s some sort of illusion of busy = I’m a good person and you should understand …

Me: Interesting … Wow. Totally. “You should understand” gets said as this non-verbal, “awww. but you understand what it’s like, right?” with a wink as the charm pours on and the accountability rolls of their back.

Friend: Ya, like that. I’ve done it myself.

Me: It’s most of my life.

Friend: Sigh.

And I’m not being cute about it. I’ve really done that most of my life. Learned how to be charming as a way of avoiding responsibility for the consequences of my actions. If I had to sum up immaturity into six words, they would be “trying to get away with things”. That was me. Learning how to be likeable to protect myself from the impact my lack of integrity was having. If integrity is so important to me today, it’s because I’ve had times where I personally had so little of it. And when we let others off the hook for doing this, we hurt the community. This is so important to understand. When we don’t honestly share the impact that others have on us, we make them less human.

Every time you make a promise and break it, it tears at the fabric of trust in your community. This is just as true as a business or as a customer. We all have a role. When businesses overhype their products and services and ultimately let people down, trust in the marketplace is diminished. And when customers behave poorly, it is the same. When customers lie to businesses or business owners lie to customers that “everything is okay,” trust slowly drains out of a hole in the bottom of the marketplace that’s approximately the size of that lie.

At a recent workshop I had a participant ask me what was being covered in the last part of the day because, “I really want to leave early to go to satsang. What time does it end? 5? Oh I thought 3:30pm. Can I pick your brain before I go?”

It felt so gross. Like I was just a tool for her to get what she wanted with no thought that her leaving early might impact the vibe in the room, that her holding my workshop so casually might impact me and that she was entitled to get what she could out of me before she left early. I stood there feeling sort of stunning by it. In her mind, this whole day seemed to be all about her getting what she wanted and then leaving as soon as she’d gotten it. It felt awful. I nodded and told her that we needed to get started soon and I wouldn’t have time. It wasn’t the most honest answer, especially since I then went to the back of the room to answer someone else’s question from whom I felt a sincere level of respect for what was going on. If this woman had said to me, “Tad. I am loving this workshop so far and I’m going to have to leave early which I’m sad about and I was wondering if I could ask you a quick question.” I would likely have sat down and given it a shot. But she hadn’t even valued the day enough to know when it ended. She seemed to place no value on my accumulated knowledge. She just wanted to pick my brain.

Ugh.

At minimum, both entrepreneurs and clients are called upon to keep their promises. Keeping our word is the basis of trust. Trust comes from people being trustworthy.

Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh.Chan eil fealladh ann cho mòr ris an gealladh gun choimhlionadh. (Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing. There is no deceit/fraud so great as the promise unfullfilled.)

– Scottish Gaelic Proverb

A small story: I recently created a project in Edmonton called The Social Yogi which creates monthly social events for local yogis.

But, being as overwhelmed with things as I was, I asked a friend to help me launch it. This friend then proceeded to bail on scheduled meetings fifteen minutes before because he was too busy. Each time he bailed he would use charm and good vibes to deflect the consequences. After the third time, I sent him a terse email letting him know that this could never happen again. He received the words well but then subsequently, and unsurprisingly, stepped down from the project.

You can’t build a project, a business or a community on the shattered remnants of broken promises. You can’t plant the seeds of new initiatives in depleted soil.

The hippie scene, in which I operate, is full of flakes. They bail on commitments all of the time without ever really “getting” the impact it has on others.

I think that this has a lot to do with our culture. If we have a culture of selfishness, I would submit that it’s because it’s rooted in the Cult of the Self.

We worship individualism.

An important point to notice: most of the emails people sent me were them expressing regret that they had missed the event and that this was a loss for them. While I appreciate this expression on one level (them letting me know they really wanted to go and were sad they couldn’t) what’s utterly missing is an acknowledgment that anyone else was impacted at all.

There’s no meaningful sense often that they understand the impact their actions have on the world around them as they trudge through the woods scaring all of wild nature and the spirit of goodwill away from them and anyone close to them. They proceed as if their needs are paramount rather than proceeding as if they are needed.

Author, elder and teacher Stephen Jenkinson once shared a story about his work with a therapist. Each time he would see the therapist, he would pay him the money for the session. But, on this day, things were tight and so Stephen casually told the therapist, “So, things are tight right now. I’ll pay you for this session next time.” Not thinking much of the impact this might have on his therapist in the same way that most of us don’t think of the impact of our actions on others.

“Why me?” were the words than came from his therapist’s mouth after a long and considered pause.

Those two words eviscerated the shroud of myopic complacency of Stephen’s excused. It asked something important of him. There was no blame in the words. No shame intended. Just the honest and, until then, ignored consideration of how he had come to decide that his therapist should be the one to bear the consequences of his lack of money. Why not his parents? Why not him? Why would the therapist be made to wait?

Why indeed.

I get my haircut at Barberha (best barbershop in Edmonton). Three times since starting to go there about a year ago, I’ve been too late and missed my appointment. Each time, I’ve insisted on paying for the appointment I missed. Then, one day, I was speaking with Linda the owner and she said, “You know Tad, you’re the only one that does that.”

I was incredulous. “What? What do they say? That’s ridiculous. They wasted your time and cost you money.”

“They just sort of say, ‘Oh man . . . I really can’t afford it right now . . .'”

My response was, “Fuck them.”

And if I were behind their counter when they pulled that, I would look them in the eyes, pause and ask them, “Dude. Why us?”

The Five Impacts of The No-Show:

When you no-show someone’s event you promised or committed to attend, it has an impact. Sure, you miss out on the workshop and that’s a bummer, but that’s too easy. That’s only the lense of the “self” this culture so celebrates. More profoundly and importantly, looking at it through the lense of the village, we see that there is an impact on many others.

Impact #1 – Money Lost: These five people no showing mean a loss of at least $500 of potential revenue for me. And maybe more if those who might have come in their place might also have spent money on other follow up products and services.

Impact #2 – Time Wasted: Now I need to follow up with the no-shows and deal with them individually. If they want to send me more money to make up for their absence, as generous and unlikely as that is, I will have to arrange payments for each of them. And there’s also some time wasted at the start of the workshop waiting to see if they’ll show up. Just 15 minutes of time wasted? No. That’s 15 minutes times seven for the seven people there who waited. It’s 15 real minutes of each person’s life, including my own.

One reader shared this,

“I can so relate as I worked 20 years for Canadian Blood Services, just retired a couple of months back and in the past year 2014, the no shows were at their highest ever. People commit an hour of their time to give blood to save peoples lives…we, CBS so heavily rely on those units and commit those units to the hospitals for people who are in great need in order to survive. To just blow it off as its nothing and say I will go another time and not even call in advance so that they can find a last minute donor to fill the seat, is so disheartening and also so frustrating and discouraging!! Staff spend countless hours understanding exactly what is required for the hospitals and then all the time spent to book donors all across the country. Then each day a dedicated team drives to locations all across Canada, through bad weather, and work long hours to ensure they get the necessary units needed to reach the daily goal. We go to the donors!! A lot of time and money is spent to pack up a team of health professionals on a bus to go to a town that has committed, say 100 units and only 30 show up….can’t describe the daily frustrations they all feel. The people I work with, especially out in the field, are beyond committed and do this job because they deeply care and most of the donors are deeply committed too….but I am not sure if it’s a generation thing or people are just so busy these days that they don’t even realize that by backing out and not informing in advance that they can’t make their appointment that someone’s loved one, a child, a sibling, a parent are lying in a hospital, with their only hope of survival, is by receiving those precious units of blood!! People need to be conscious of their actions when they commit to something and don’t follow through.”

Impact #3 – Someone Else Can’t Make It: If the workshop is a sell out, it means that, very likely, someone else wasn’t able to be there. Someone who really wanted to attend. And who was able and willing to be there.

Impact #4 – The Workshop is Changed: I plan my workshops for a certain number of people for a reason often. When people no-show, I have to change my plans and, sometimes, whole exercises need to be cut because there just aren’t enough people to carry them out.

Impact #5 – Impact on the Facilitator: My colleague Russell Scott said it so well, his words capturing the visceral essence of the thing I experience every time people no show me.

“At the beginning of the event I’ve been so pumped and excited anticipating the numbers and then 1/2 the people don’t show. Imagine going into a room of people with your heart totally open and then someone punches you in the stomach. That’s what it feels like right at the beginning of the workshop. The presenter has to deal with the excitement of doing the workshop and the disappointment of the no-shows at the same time. Its not a great way to begin.”

It’s so easy to forget that the facilitators are human beings too. That we’re not vending machines for wisdom that aren’t impacted by the group with which they work.

But it’s also important for us to remember that most people won’t see things this way and so, it’s good to consider how you can institutionalize and systematize the education and elucidation of this into your marketing and registration systems so the importance of their attendance is lifted up to them.

Crucially, we’re no longer talking about the importance of their attendance to them. Whether or not coming is important to them is literally none of my business or concern. I have no interest in making it important to them. I have interest in setting up the agreement, boundaries and payment structure so that it’s fair for both parties but I have no interest in trying to position what I’m doing as vital and therefore that, should they decide not to come, that they’re missing out on something important. None of my business.

Trying to get people to love or respect us in their hearts is a huge red herring; a false thread to follow. It looks like a good path to follow but it only takes us further and further away from where we need to be. In the end, it actually doesn’t matter if they love or respect you. What matters, very much, is how they behave. How they feel about you? Not so important. How they act around you? Very important. You have literally no control over how they feel, but there’s a lot you can do to create the conditions out of which good and courteous behaviour will grow.

Now, I will, of course, share what I have to offer as clearly and compellingly as I can. I want to help them see not only what I’m offering but the benefits it could have to their life. Of course. But that’s done with the offer to help them see if it’s a fit, not to convince them it is.

This is huge. If you don’t establish, with crystal clarity who your work is fit for and for whom it isn’t a fit, people will tend to see what you do as a commodity. They’ll see it as something generic and common. And that won’t engender respect. If they see that you do some things but not others, if they see that you have a scope of your work outside of which you’ll need to refer them to other people, they begin to get this sense of respect for what you do because they actually understand what you do. The clearer you are about your point of view and perspective, the more clear what you do becomes.

Respect begins with clarity and relevance. It deepens with trust and credibility and solidifies when they understand the value of it.

When I say, it’s good to lift up the importance of their attendance, I mean lifting up how and why it matters to other people besides themselves. This can show up in:

  • the contract they sign when they sign up
  • a welcome video you make
  • a box they check where they say, in essence, “I agree not to be a dick and no show because I know that impacts other people, costs you money and is a general buzz kill.”
  • a personal welcome call
  • a welcome email that they get

But it also shows up in…

  • the way you treat them with the kind of courtesy and respect you’d want from them
  • the kind of welcome they get in your programs so that they actually have the experience of knowing their presence is noticed and mattered
  • the way you carry yourself and speak about your work with the kind of respect and reverence you want from them (which has to have its roots in a real and meaningful respect you have around it – if you don’t respect the work you do, your own time and energy – they will smell that on you like a horse smells your nervousness and backs away)
  • your willingness to check in with them directly when they do something that doesn’t feel good to you

There are so many ways to do this and so many ways of wording it. Note: I’d love to read yours if you’d be willing to post it below.

You can’t build a village out of a group of people who only think about themselves and what’s in it for them. To hell with the invisible hand of self interest.

And we can’t build a village out of people who think that beautiful words are enough or that saying something is the same as doing it.

What was present in most of the words I received was the sentiment “I value you” and what was absent is any meaningful action about it. It is jarring to have someone utterly no-show a workshop and then say the words, “I really value you and your work.” To which my honest response is, “No. You don’t. If you actually valued it, you would have behaved differently. You just showed me how little you valued me. Now you’re trying to manage me and have me not be upset with you.”

During the lunch hour of the second workshop of the no-shows, I was venting my frustration with my friend Megan. She’d worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years and she related how, on big days like Valentines Day, people would often make reservations at three or four restaurants so that, on the day, they could choose whatever worked best for them. But that meant that the unchosen restaurants found themselves with too many staff and a lot of empty tables, costing restaurant thousands.

Cab drivers deal with this when people call a cab company to book a cab but end up hailing one down later and never calling to cancel their booking with the original cab company. They justify it by saying, “Everyone does it. It’s just how it is. No big deal.”

All too often, people make promises to others to do things not because they intend to do them but because they want to keep their options open and so they use their promises like a credit card that accrues the interest-based debt of resentment from others as the cost for buying more possibilities and time than were actually available to them without it. Instead of feeling the real human grief of our limitedness and all of the things we can’t say a real, solid, genuine “yes” to, we pretend that maybe we can say “yes” to everything and everyone and then, at the last minute, if things don’t work out for us, we can just bail and walk away.

Responsibility is a bigger thing than just trying our best to do what we say we will. It’s also about taking responsibility for making sure we’ll be ready and able to deliver on what it is we’ve committed to. It’s about creating the conditions we know we’ll need to succeed. If we promise to be somewhere and then choose to stay up late the night before . . . we chose to do that and, in that moment, we made our own comfort, productivity etc. more important than our promise to that person.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about that. But, at least, let’s be honest that that’s what happened.

If you need to bail, then own that that’s what you’re doing. Don’t pretend to have been a victim of something so much smaller than you.

Most of our lives are dramatically over committed (as a result of a desperately sick culture that creates this, which is a topic for another blog post). Most of us are barely scraping by as we sort out how to live a life of integrity in a larger system that utterly lacks it, how to enjoy the natural cycles of community in a culture addicted to linear growth and how to give our gifts in a culture that only values gifts if they add to the GDP. All of this can add up to overwhelm and burn out. And, unless we’re deeply committed to village mindededness, we can draw a straight line from this overly committed life to broken promises, hurt feelings and shattered rice bowls.

The task before us is immense: to tear down this failing culture, to build something new, and still –  in the midst of it all – have the space and support we need to be there for each other in a good way. Before us is a hard road to learn to balance taking care of our needs and the needs of the community. And there’s a lot for us all to learn in the process. This process is guaranteed to be messy and woven together with the threads of our own self righteousness and hypocrisy until enough thread has been stitched in that we can see its sickening colour but, instead of tearing it out, we leave it in so that we remember that even our approach to solving the issues of community was, itself, tearing the community apart. I don’t know all of the answers in this, but I do know that it’s worth the mess of being real with each other.

And I do know that, as entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity to not only sell people things but to be a part of re-educating people on the etiquette of graciousness and courtesy through our own example.

Let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before us will demand nothing less.”

– Naomi Klein, address to Occupy Wall Street

Further Reading:

There’s a Modern Affliction Ruining Our Friendships — And We’re All Guilty of It

Guest Post: Why You Should NOT Work In The Gift Economy

 

by Mirror Living

January 2015

 

Occasionally on this wild path of working in the gift economy, I’ve been approached almost with a sense of reverence. Some souls are deeply touched, moved to tears by me doing this so publicly. It confirms their own insights into alternative pricing models, the ruin that is our current economic system and the myth of money and debt. It gives a sense of possibility for those of us who’ve felt like outsiders, freaks and rejects of society our entire lives. It echoes the journey of the heart’s deepest wisdom and the more beautiful world we can create together.

Many are certain mainstream pricing and business models are not for them. Or they’ve tried it for short periods of time and it’s been a difficult and overwhelming road leading to retreat or blame of the system or themselves. A sense of powerlessness and inadequacy is evident. When someone comes to me for help and they tell me they work in the gift, my heart sinks a little for I cannot recommend running a business this way initially. I don’t teach people to work in the gift because I don’t yet know it’s possible. For me the ride thus far has been crazy-making, humbling and incredibly challenging (just like working in the mainstream economy is) with the very idea of alternative economies still being confronting to the majority. There’s a familiar, comfortable weight of security in the way things have always been done. There are mammoth amounts of fear and complacency that first need to be met within the self and then met with love in others before we can embrace what it means to truly work in the spirit of the gift.

There’s also an assumption (the illusion of good marketing if you will), that because I’m doing this visibly and I’m seen regularly in both pixels and real world events and because I present myself in a professional manner, I must be successful working in the gift. And if I’m successful, then you will be too. (I’m doing OK but definitely not making as much money as I was in regular ol’ business. Also, for the first time since I left home at age 17, my partner is paying my rent so I no longer have the responsibility of having to earning enough to keep a roof over our heads. I am also debt-free.)

I define the gift economy simply – a model of the movement within society of necessary goods and services wherein human relationships are valued above all else, one in which money no longer determines the existence of relationship. Money may still be used as part of the gift economy but it’s presence (or absence) does not define the relationship (unlike in the dominant economy). It’s a movement from accumulation and separation toward generosity and the natural reciprocity that arises in the face of a gift freely given. Models like pay what you want / pay what it’s worth pricing, you decide invoicing and by donation are all interpretations of the gift economy and attempt to capture the essence of the pure gift economy found in traditional cultures. For me, the gift economy does not include barter and trade models that seek agreement on value before the transaction can occur.

Before transitioning into the gift economy 6 months ago, income earned via business in the current economic model paid my way 100% for more than 4 years. Without looking at the nitty gritty of exactly what the number of zeros I made annually add up to, from a survival perspective I was running a “successful” business. This journey has been (and continues to be) one of the most intense and liberating spiritual paths I could possibly imagine. It’s not for the faint-hearted or for those who want quick and easy money. There have been years of hard work, long hours, multiple failures and disappointments, challenges, depressions and crippling self-doubt. Money issues shoved in my face. Putting things out there and getting no results, not being noticed, not being seen, not being responded to. Measuring achievements against others and believing with every cell in my body that of course, it’s obvious, I’m just not good enough and never will be. Drowning in unworthiness. Attempting to change who I am (yup, even going so far as to wear makeup and collared shirts. blech!) to better fit in. I’ve tried to sell, played the game, manipulated, become obsessed with money and woken in sweaty panics at 3.00 am. I’ve felt desperate, alone and ashamed of how little I have to show for the time, effort and energy I’ve put in. I’ve been scarred and have let fear dictate action (all this despite being a devoted yogini and dedicated-to-consciousness-and-higher-states love bunny). I’ve been human.

Alongside this, there’s been unspeakable thrills of putting out offers and overnight making rent for the next month. Sold out courses. Coaching sessions booked for weeks in advance. Beautiful feedback on blog posts and emails. Co-creative opportunities flowing in. Published print and online articles. Being sought out from word of mouth glowing referrals. The sense of one’s power that comes from taking action, showing up every day and seeing direct correlations between said actions and results. Knowing you’re the master of your own destiny. Moments of Awe. Radiant insights beyond this realm. I’ve cried many a tear of gratitude and received many an unsolicited testimonial of soppy thanks. I’ve seen and known the omnipotence of Source in my business and life. Witnessed miracles, coincidences, gifts of such incredible abundance I’m humbled and brought to my knees by the beauty and glory of it all. I’ve tasted heaven and know it is within. I’ve been spirit.

This has only been possible because of a willingness to step into the world as it is, not how I would like it to be. To look at business from every perspective, honour and identify what I don’t like about the mainstream economy and how most run their businesses and make choices that come from an empowered and embodied place that’s here, now and grounded in the third dimension.

The three reasons below outline why you should NOT work in the gift economy. The opinions contained here are strong (partly because I wish someone had been as straight with me when I first started working in the gift instead of having to messily hash it out on my own! But then again, maybe they did but I just couldn’t hear them…?). The pointers below are written specially for those new to business and for those who want to make enough money doing what they love in the world. 

1. Working in the gift economy can reinforce and perpetuate separation, creating an Us vs Them mentality

Many of us carry core wounding from lifetimes of feeling like an alien, of looking at the world around us and seeing nothing but deceit, unconsciousness and violence against each other and the earth. Many of us have exited in a variety of ways: into drugs, eastern spiritual, metaphysical and artistic paths and communal living with greater and lesser degrees of peace and lasting happiness. If less than lasting happiness has been your experience, I urge you to sit with and hold any part that wants to escape from this economy, judge or pull down society gently. Society and the economy is messed up, it’s true. But it’s no more messed up than our own internal processes. Pushing against it, avoiding it, shaming or blaming it is not an effective strategy for transformation or success in business in any kind of economy. It creates separation. 

And if our beautiful, profound and magnificent education is preventing us from engaging in the world as it is, we are contributing to separation on this planet. 

This may sound harsh but I’ve seen this truth repeatedly. I’ve also tried separation as a path more than almost any one else I know. It’s painful and it doesn’t work. Because we have to keep coming back into society as it is now. We have to engage in the economy. We have to invest in certain things to live in even rudimentary levels of comfort. We have to make decisions for sustainability that are more about the lesser of two evils than about real solutions. We have to interact with family and people who live here, in society. 

We can no longer avoid a world that doesn’t appear to value love and vulnerability. We can no longer afford to keep ourselves apart from others because of superior concepts of consciousness, inclusive economies and dedication to saving the planet. We can no longer judge others for their apparent lack of understanding of a view so radical and confronting to the norm they can’t even see it. Until we know every person who surrounds us is us, despite their convictions and choices demonstrating degrees of light / dark, willingness and ignorance we will not have a business from the heart (regardless of how pure our motives are of working in the gift and alternative economies). Instead, we are moving from fear, reaction and separation. I’m pretty sure this is not the kind of world we dream of.

2. You won’t learn the language of the world (and the world is where the money is)

One thing I know for sure is that if you step onto this path of the gift economy you will be judged as naive, potentially loopy, silly, and a crackpot hippie by many. Folks may be polite and supportive to your face but some part of them will be doubting you and your motivations, wondering what the catch is. Or people will be confused and won’t book in or buy because of this. Probably not your friends, for they love and understand you but in the wider community you will be likely be disregarded as someone who is too radical and far out to be serious about much of anything. This is reality (however narrow and sad it may be). This is how we live in the west. Our primary way of defining and determining interactions (outside of family and friends) is fiscal. Money determines the value, worth, breadth and depth of relationships and if you challenge this overtly you will be labelled, discounted and discarded. Your audience will be limited or worse, may become so far left-of-centre as to appear non-existent (I saw this clearly in a recent exploration “Working In the Gift Economy 7: The Experiment May Be Over). 

This is not how to make enough money doing what you love in the world :-(

I know many gifted individuals sharing their offerings in low-key, off-the-grid kind of ways working in alternative and gift economies. Some are amazing examples of how these models work effectively (in small, highly local, cloistered permaculture communities). Others are struggling with ideals they haven’t yet been able to actualise (without withdrawing from society and heading to the hills) or dealing with depressing internal conflicts around self-worth and integrity in making money, enoughness and survival. Many I know working in alternative economies have very low confidence in who they are (see core wounding above). They don’t know their message or what they stand for. They’re unable to talk clearly about what they do or invite people to experience it or communicate the value of their offerings. They cannot share from a pristine place of exactly what their service will help with, exactly who it’s for and exactly how much it costs. They haven’t learned how and because of this, are unable to attract clients and create enough income. They may then become disillusioned and leave before the energy of business can transform. Or shelve dreams entirely, holding onto stories of inadequacy for years ahead, go get jobs or opt-out of society to live in ashrams because it’s easier than running a business and facing fear and money every day. It’s easier to avoid learning a new language than to be yourself in the world as it is.

Before I started in business and had to learn the language of the world, I was steeped in separation (I didn’t know it at the time. I thought my heart was so wide open in divine angelic love, rainbows would pave every step of my way!). Learning this language, at even a basic level, has shown me a true connection that cannot be threatened by environment and noise. It’s taught me compassion for others and the world of mind, thought, judgement and comparison within my self. 

If you step into the gift economy without first having met and mastered communication, your experience and ability to serve others will be less. It’s likely you’ll tire rapidly of the hard work required to explain what you do because it’s not in terms people can easily understand. You may give up, believing you’ve failed and this is the real tragedy. There are way, WAY too many soft, caring, intelligent, talented, extraordinary people of the heart NOT doing what they love, NOT being seen because they haven’t yet found a creative and conscious way of being in business and marketing or they’ve given up looking. Their messages of self-healing and self-responsibility are not being heard or contributing to the wellbeing of the earth because of illiteracy.

3. A vital part of your own self-development and personal evolution will be neglected 

Our souls of course, are perfect, innocent and complete and need nothing to be done ever but if you’re feeling a call to share your voice, save the planet and make a difference, THIS is the next stage of evolution being asked. It’s not about changing who you are at your core or “playing the game”. It’s not about forcing our sacred geometrical shapes into a square holes, conforming or compromising. It’s about understanding reality and meeting it with love. For self and for others. A love that proves you understand the realities of busy lives lived from values that, although different from yours, are no less valid, necessary and meaningful. A love that’s willing to listen and be moved by the universe because you’re here for a reason. You’re not somewhere else, living in a close-knit traditional culture where they value the gift economy as essential to daily life. You’re here.

If we skip over the mainstream economy we will fail to understand fully the depth of conditioning and cultural influences inherent in both ourselves and our clients (no matter how conscious and aware we might be) therefor true communication and self-knowledge is limited as is a felt, direct experience of oneness and connection. If we bypass the mainstream economy without knowing it well enough to get a sense of our own power and right to exist, we also risk bypassing our potential and feeling like perennial outsiders. If we miss the learning contained within the structure of the mainstream economy to work in alternative economies, we are preventing and short-changing our own evolution.

Running a business in the dominant economy teaches us about the nature of the Self and Mind. It will show us how magnificent and infinite we really are. It leads to an understanding of truth, value, worth, community, presence, perception, trust, commitment, surrender and deep communion of the heart. And once we know these things, we can do it our own way for conscious business is an intimate and personal path to enlightenment.

*******

This article is not intended as direction to never enter into alternative economies (that would also be a tragedy! The earth needs this! We need you! The dominant paradigm must be challenged by the passionate rebels among us!) rather let it be an organic transition that comes from a foundation of (at least) a basic level of competence in business in the current economy. Let it come from solid ground and from service to the whole. Let it come from realisation.

So how do we do both? Step onto the path of business in the current economy while remaining rooted in the heart’s desire to be of service? It’s an ongoing exploration, constantly moving, flowing. There’s no wrong way or right way. Only your way. The answer isn’t important, it’s the asking of the question that matters most. And a willingness to keep on asking the question as new information, experiences, challenges and learning come your way. To return often in the midst of chaotic effort to ask, “How can I be of service? How can I give?” In this way, gift economy values are anchored and become the norm. In this way we slowly but permanently shift the dominant paradigm by bringing more light to business. We become the gift.

Below are 9 ways of working in the spirit of the gift while running a business in the present economy. It’s imperative to know your limits and know your self and be gentle in the face of other’s misunderstandings for this is truly a radical path. If we are not, the gift economy may be reduced to just another fancy marketing strategy designed to influence perception instead of a deep honouring of the sacred breath of life we’ve been given. I hope your heart finds solace and inspiration here and practical ways to express the spirit of the gift through your business. 

1. Have deeply loving customer service as your primary priority. 

I’ve been shocked at the level of service many businesses seem content with and I’ve been shocked by how poorly I’ve been treated as a paying customer at times. Your clients will have similar experiences. They will notice and appreciate your willingness to listen and understand their story. This is a gift in a world where many successful businesses don’t honour, value and respect customers and their money. You may feel that being kind and loving to every person who walks in the door is always present but this question asks you how you can bring even more caring and connection to every exchange on every level. 

2. Offer one of your services “by donation” or “in the spirit of the gift”. 

Getting clear on what you’re happy to give and what is definitely a paid service will help you identify where to start with what to give. You might have a weekly community yoga class for $5 or a monthly community get together, satsang, movie night, devotional music performance or something else. This way, you’ll always have an option for folks who want to connect with you but cannot afford full price. This way you’ll be nourished and inspired to continue giving when natural gratitude arises from your clients and students. If you’re a healer, consider forming a small group with other local practitioners to share regular, community giving back days – one afternoon every month or so where everyone offers low-cost sessions and treatments in one location. 

3. Give expansive time frames for instalment plans.

Many businesses do not do this, leaving little room for flow and negotiation. I’ve even heard flexible approaches denigrated by teachers of spiritual entrepreneurs as “betraying the many to give special treatment to the few”. There are good reasons for this but the reality remains in the life of a small business owner –  there have been 7 different higher-end programs and courses over the past 5 years I wouldn’t have been able to participate in were it not for the generosity and understanding of the facilitators. This is not about special treatment, it’s about responding to the realities of life. I remain forever grateful for the love the facilitators showed me and I’ve referred many clients to them because of this. Don’t offer extensions immediately – honour your own commitment to cash flow and covering expenses first but have this as a quiet option. Wait until you are approached personally. If someone really wants your services and they cannot find a way to make it happen financially right now, they will take action to connect with you. Trust them and trust their process. See what your heart and intuition say when the situation arises. Always be flexible when you can for it is a gift.

4. Ask for feedback and deal with all complaints and issues in a loving way. 

Ask your clients for their honest feedback – how can you improve? What worked for you? What didn’t work for you? Many businesses lack even a primitive platform for feedback and so are missing valuable ways to connect and deepen in relationship with their clients. Have a loving and supportive refund policy. Tell folks what it is and why it exists. Let them know refunds and credits are possibly in extreme circumstances. Assess these on an individual basis instead of having one blanket policy that is enforced regardless of the individual situation. If you don’t want to refund them, that’s totally OK but what can you offer to make them feel just a little better? How can you be supportive of them instead of dismissive (like so many business) if they are dissatisfied? How can you listen to the feedback they are giving you? This is a gift.

5. Be open to giving when your heart is called. 

If your heart really wants to work with someone but you know they cannot afford it, see if you can still help them while supporting yourself and the reality of your needs simultaneously. Can you give them mini sessions? Invite them to the community events? Give them a referral to a government service? Call them on a phone for a brief chat once a month or so? Whatever your heart feels to give. There are no rules and no limitations. Just make sure that it’s a genuine YES from your heart and that you’re not giving with any sense of obligation or rescuing as this can lead to resentment. And if you notice resentment building in relation to this particular client, let them know you can no longer keep supporting them as a gift. They will certainly understand and may have some ideas and suggestions themselves (perhaps they can give to you in some other way? Perhaps their situation has changed from when your relationship first began and they may now be able to pay you for your time?). 

6. Share interesting, excellent, informative and transformational stuff online. 

Share things that are of genuine value and bring more love to the world. Do not just talk about all the amazing things you’re doing in your business on social media. Give. Give. Give. Honour another practitioner. Honour your own teachers. Share a story of how much a certain book or practice has changed your life. Tell a story that’s restored faith in humanity. Celebrate a client. If you look, there are a 1000 ways to give and combat the narcissism that mediums like facebook create. This takes skill, time and thought to develop and helps negate the quick-look-at-me, blaring, hyped-up messages that are the norm online. Over time, people will notice the depth, stillness and integrity shared and associate it with you. This is a gift.

7. Be integral in giving as much as you can be. 

Do not give in order to get all the time. This is a deeply transformative and passionate enquiry that only you can find the answer to. Only you know the deeper motivation behind your giving and the purity of your intentions. It’s OK in business to give to get from time to time. In fact, giving to get is what business and marketing is all about. It’s the truth. Know when you’re giving to get and celebrate this, make this OK for yourself, understand that giving to get is the way of the current economy and of the society we find ourselves in. Giving to get is also how traditional gift economies work in the purest sense (tribal members give to get positive regard and public accolade for example. Or they give because their generosity ensures they will also be supported in the future when they need help). Don’t always give to get though or before you know it, every decision you make in business and life will be determined by what you will get out of it and this does not feel good. Give for no reason other than because you can occasionally. Give because it feels amazing to be of service especially when there is no hope of return. 

8. Give referrals. 

If you cannot help someone do your best to find another excellent teacher or practitioner to send them to. Don’t do this for an affiliate or referral fee as it changes the energetic. Do it because this other person is genuinely more skilled in a particular area then you are or because you personally have benefitted from and love their products or services. Do it because you want to help. Do it because you cannot benefit from this immediately. This is a gift and it shows you care deeply about another’s path and that you’re willing to take time to find out enough about them and their issues to give them something genuinely worthwhile.

9. Support a local charity or cause.

Is there a cause you’re inspired by and want to support? Some businesses choose to donate a set amount from every dollar earned or product sold. Others host fundraising community events for a cause or recent natural disaster. Perhaps you can find time to volunteer personally with hands-on work in your local community on a regular basis (reading to children or people in aged care homes for example) – this is my favourite option because of its immediacy. Guaranteed, it’s one of the fasted ways to bliss and you’ll leave your time volunteering uplifted and with a ton of new energy to devote to your business and life. Think about something that truly benefits those around you and how money you earn through your business could support this.

*******

Working in the gift economy is one path of many to enlightened relationships with each other and the Earth. Mainstream business is another and if you’re wanting to make enough money doing what you love, it’s the only one I recommend (at this current point of personal and planetary evolution anyway). Stepping into the gift and alternative economies as a reaction to what we see around us (and judge as destructive and ignorant) is an incomplete approach. At this point, it’s a utopian dream for many who live in cities and gift economy teachings are destined to enter lives, inspire greatly and then depart once reality kicks in (sometimes leaving a trail of lost and disappointed bodies behind). Keep going, keep giving in ways that feel good, keep living in service, keep sharing from your heart but be honest about where you and where the world are at. Come from a place grounded in the current reality and the love that’s already and always here. You and I right now are crumbling walls of separation and changing what it means to be in business.

Love, Mirror

MIRROR LIVING SHORT BIO

Mirror Living - Business From The HeartDevoted yogini, gift economist, love bunny, living room dancer and closet songwriter madly in awe of any practice that takes us from our heads to our hearts. Mirror teaches authentic marketing for yoga teachers and healers and digs playing with puppets, swimming naked, crystal singing bowls and anything that even vaguely hints at offering the tiniest taste of divinity… Come join the community –www.businessfromtheheart.com or on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mira.living

 
 

Guest Post: The Essential Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing

Tom-Morkes-headshot3

 

The Essential Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing

– Tom Morkes

In April of 2013, I did something a bit mad, and it’s changed the way I view business (and life) forever.

Before I explain, here’s some background for context:

I started building my personal website www.tommorkes.com in the fall of 2012. For the first 5 or 6 months I gave everything away for free.

No price tag – just take it.

In that time, I created a lot of content too: several blog posts a week, an 80 page book, a bunch of mini-guides and workbooks, a podcast, etc.

All for free.

In this time, I’d built of a list of about 150 readers.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2013, and I’m in my car listening to a podcast featuring the Vennare brothers of Thehybridathlete.com. They were telling a story about their successful fitness business, which was bringing in 6 figures a year. 

Cool, but no big deal, right?

But then they said something that blew my mind: 

They were making this money in a completely unconventional way: by letting their customers CHOOSE their price.

In other words: Pay What You Want (PWYW) pricing. 

I let the idea float around my brain for a bit and realize this is the technique I needed to use for my writing.

I still wanted as many people as possible to have access to my work, but also wanted to validate the worth of my writing (as in, I wanted to know if my writing was good enough to pay for).

My next book was a small ebook – a compilation of notes from a Seth Godin conference. After getting permission from Seth to share the book with my audience, I created a simple splash page on my website, uploaded the file to Gumroad.com, and let my 150 subscribers know I had a new, free eBook for them…
 
With one catch: for the first time ever, I gave them the opportunity to contribute to my creative work
??as much or as little as they’d like.

I expected to make nothing, but why not try, right?
 
The next day, I had $80 in my bank account.

“Wow – very cool…”
 
By the end of the week, $340.

“This is incredible…”
 
At the end of the month, I was closing in on $500.
 
“All for something I gave away for free. Amazing…”

Was it Just Luck?

Trust me, I get it.

This seems like a one off anomaly. As a random success story that doesn’t prove it can be repeated.

Normally, I would create a long list of examples to disprove this; to show it’s been done many, many times before in much bigger ways than what I did (including examples like Disconnect.me, Humblebundle.com, Radiohead’s In Rainbows album, Joost van Dongen’s $20k PWYW video game, Panera Bread’s PWYW based cafes, Perlin Winery in Berlins, and many others)…

But instead, I’d like to share a couple new ways I’ve personally used the pricing technique this year and the results.

How Pay What You Want Pricing Can Work for In Person Events with Expensive Overhead

In the spring of 2014, I co-launched a new business called TheFlightFormula.com.

The Flight Formula is a heart-centered business incubation program – it’s a 1 week, live, in-person training event to help you launch a heart-centered business from scratch.

I initially came on as a pricing consultant (and then latter as a cofounding partner) because of my work in Pay What You Want pricing.

My suggestion: let’s take Pay What You Want pricing to it’s edge.

In other words: let’s remove price altogether.

Now – to give a clear context for how crazy this is – The Flight Formula in person even had about $15,000 – $20,000 in overhead (housing, catered food, mentors and coaches, etc.). 

Removing price would be an insane proposition, right?

The results prove otherwise.

We were able to raise over $40,000 in commitments for the event. I write all about that experience here.

How Pay What You Want Pricing Works Even Better for Services Than Digital Products

A lot of people who happen upon Pay What You Want pricing immediately think it can only work for digital products.

What they’re unconsciously recognizing is that low marginal cost ought to make Pay What You Want more successful and lower your overall risk.

While this isn’t untrue, it misses a bigger point:

Pay What You Want pricing works best when there’s a personal connection.

To prove this, I tested Pay What You Want consulting this past year. After consulting with over a dozen people in March of 2014, from Argentina tourism companies, to African Telecom companies, to solopreneurs, to artists, here are the results:

The lowest contribution per hour of my time: $28.53

The highest contribution per hour of my time: $250.00

Average consulting rate per hour: $182.26

That means, on average, I was making more per hour than the average doctor or lawyer (here’s an article where I show the experiment and the results in more depth).

How (and why) Does Pay What You Want Pricing Work?

These results may seem incredible, but the reality is – it’s the result of basic principles in psychology and human interaction.

There are four primary reasons Pay What You Want pricing works:

1. Pay What You Want pricing removes the barrier to entry

Fixed-price products by their nature create a barrier to entry for consumers. By lowering the price to zero (or close to zero), you remove the barrier to entry.

Yet, while free destroys revenue, PWYW does not??people still contribute, and often more generously than you’d imagine.

2. Pay What You Want pricing removes the price ceiling

In an eye-opening interview I did with Ryan Delk of Gumroad.com, I found out something incredible:

Based on the results of multiple uses of Pay What You Want, Ryan discovered that the top 1-3% of our audiences contribute way over the average??so much so that they often more than make up for those who contribute the minimum.

“The interesting thing about Pay What You Want is that people fundamentally underestimate how engaged and excited the top 1 to 3% of their audience is about the things that they do…”

I found this to be true in my case.

When I released my first book as PWYW, the majority of my income came from the top 3% of my audience who contributed $50-$100 per download.

3. Pay What You Want pricing encourages impulse buying

The majority of buyers on the planet are looking for a deal.

When something is discounted – even if we don’t need the product or service – we often buy.

That’s an impulse buy and it happens to varying degrees for different people.

With PWYW, because we’ve lowered the barrier to entry, we can inspire the same impulse buying (ESPECIALLY when we make our PWYW offers limited time events).

4. Pay What You Want inspires generosity

Contrary to popular belief, people are not self-serving by nature.

The title from a Harvard Business Review article says it best:

“When the Rule Is “Pay What You Want,” Almost Everyone Pays Something”

The study goes on to explain that 95.95% of customers contribute money when paying is optional. The question is…how MUCH do those 95.95% actually contribute. Matt Homann of LexThink is a consultant for lawyers, accountants and large corporations like Microsoft. 

He switched from fixed price invoicing to what he calls You Decide Invoicing.

Here’s what he had to say about his results:

“Since I’ve been doing this, my sense of the value I give my clients has increased. I’ve recognized that my clients don’t care about the time I spend working for them, but rather the results they get from working with me. Quantitatively, my income has doubled in the past year, because clients pay me more on my blank invoices than I would have charged them. I’ve also increased my per-engagement price (when I’m asked to give one). I know charge roughly three times what I would have quoted before my pricing experiment began.” Source: You Decide Invoicing

Double your fixed rate price…

How’s that for generous?

How to Apply Pay What You Want Pricing to Your Product or Service

Now it’s time to apply the Pay What You Want pricing to your products or services.

This is the framework I use and teach all my clients: what I call The 6 Step Perfect Pitch Framework

This framework will show you HOW to offer your product or service so people not only contribute, but contribute GENEROUSLY to your offer.  And at the end of the day, that’s what we want, right? 

So let’s get to it:

1. Clarify the Offer

The same rules apply to fixed priced products and services as they do to PWYW products and services.

If people don’t know what you’re offering, how can you expect them to contribute (let alone contribute generously).

2. Show the Customer You’re Human

We don’t give to corporations. We give to people.

If Applebees rolled out a line of PWYW appetizers, why would anyone pay extra?

But if the artisan baker down the street, who you’ve known personally for years, is offering his hand-crafted baked goods as Pay What You Want, now all of a sudden there’s a reason to contribute (and generously).

A couple ways to show people you’re human online:

add your picture to the website and sales page

write casually and passionately (i.e. not like a robot)

3. Appeal to Idealism

Pay What You Want pricing is all about giving people a reason to contribute generously.

We do this by appealing to virtue, generosity, karma, and any other ideal that encourages giving. Sometimes, just mentioning the word is good enough. Other times, we need to elaborate on what and why we’re using PWYW.

Remember: people buy stories.  So give them a good story that appeals to their idealism (they’ll be more willing to contribute and to spread the word).

4. Anchor the Price

If you’re selling a premium product as PWYW, you need to anchor a premium price in the buyers mind.

Price anchoring is a psychological technique marketers use to get you ready to buy expensive stuff, like iPads – a $500 iPad by itself is ridiculously expensive compared to a laptop (it doesn’t even do as much)…

But if we compare it to more expensive iPads – up to $800 or more – it’s not so expensive.  This is price anchoring (showing really expensive alternatives so your original product doesn’t seem so expensive).

With Pay What You Want pricing, since the price is up to the buyer, we need to anchor our product or service to similar but premium fixed priced products.

5. Steer the Customer to the Right Choice

Once you’ve price anchored the product, you need to actually steer the customer to the right choice.

PWYW is ambiguous in some ways, and ambiguity scares people.  We need to be clear not only with our offer (see above), but with what an average contribution would look like, and, even better, what a generous contribution would look like.

6. Rally around a Purpose

When people see a Pay What You Want item, they’re going to ask themselves (either out loud or subconsciously):

Why let me choose the price?

Is this a trick / ploy / ruse?

That’s why it’s so important to rally your PWYW pricing around a purpose – to explain the purpose behind the pricing, which is just as important as explaining clearly the product or service.

How?

Explain why you’re using the pricing technique; show your customers why the pricing technique is important (to them and to their community)

7. (BONUS) Add Charity to the Mix

While it’s true that a simple PWYW offer can increase revenue compared to fixed-pricing, it’s statistically proven to be more effective when you add charity to the mix. This ties into the ‘appeal to idealism’ I mentioned earlier but creates an even greater incentive to give and to give generously.

Of course, you need to integrate charity authentically, honestly, and congruently with your message, otherwise it comes off shady or forced and people won’t contribute.

No, you can’t ‘game’ the system with charity, so only use it if it fits.

Next Steps

So that wraps up a brief overview of Pay What You Want pricing.

If you’re interested in learning more, I created a free 7 part email series to go into each of these topics in more depth, including case studies, copy-and-paste PWYW pricing copy (for your sales page) and more.

Join the free 7 Day Pay What You Want Pricing Crash Course here.

Other than that, let us know in the comments below what questions you have or if you’ve tried out PWYW pricing – what your results have been.

Thanks and see you in the comments!

candid 40 minute video interview on alternative pricing models – pwyc, barter, sliding scale and gift economy

I’m excited to send you this email because it includes a forty minute interview with me talking about my view on alternative pricing models such as pay what you can/want, barter, sliding scale or straight up ‘gift economy’ and more.

If you’ve ever wanted to experiment with your pricing then you might really like this. 

I’ve written a few blog posts about it but this is the most in depth you’ve likely ever heard me speak about it.

And let me be clear – I am speaking from considerable personal experience on the subject having run the vast majority of my weekend workshops over the past decade on a pay what you can model. I’ve led a weekend workshop on the topic and it’s been one of the main topics of discussion I’ve had with my colleagues over the past years.

What you’re about to watch is the condensed, Coles Notes version of the past ten years of my hard won learnings on the topic.

This video is my gift to you. Feel free to share it.

I hope you enjoy it.

Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking

amanda-palmer-future-of-musicThis video of Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk reminds me so much of my pay what you can philosophy and rings true in my experiences of trusting people. Beautiful.

designing for generosity

A dear colleague of mine – Nippun Mehta – did a TEDx talk on the theme of “Designing for Generosity“. That I had to share with you.

Capitalism seems to be based on the idea that we’re selfish.

And there’s truth to this.

We do everything we do to meet our needs. But it’s so easy to forget that some of our deepest needs are for connection, community and contribution. So, what if we designed things with that in mind? What if our businesses gave people not only ways to consume more but also created spaces to contribute and connect?

Simon Sinek speaks to this so brilliantly in his book Start With Why – that marketing tricks and tactics might create sales – but they won’t create loyalty.

What creates loyalty? It’s less about what we do and how we do it and more about ‘why’ we do it. People come together around a shared ‘why’. This is what brings communities and teams most deeply together – sharing a deeper and more transcendent purpose.

As we weave this into our business – and give our communities ways to contribute we then also deepen our connection to them.

Nippun gives some wonderful examples of pay what you can pricing models in business. What most people never consider with PWYC pricing models is the word of mouth potential of them – how people will not only talk about what you do – but how you charge for it.

If you’re committed to staying true to your politics, remaining accessible to the people who need you most but also to sustaining yourself – I think you’ll really love this video.

Here’s a blurb from the Karmatube description:

What would the world look like if we designed for generosity? Instead of assuming that people want to simply maximize self-interest, what if our institutions and organizations catered to our deeper motivations? This compelling TEDx talk explores this question and introduces the concept of Giftivism: the practice of radically generous acts that change the world. The video is charged with stories of such acts, ranging from: the largest peaceful transfer of land in human history, to a pay-it-forward restaurant, to a 10-year-old’s unconventional birthday celebration, and the stunning interaction between a victim and his teenage mugger. With clarity and insight, it details the common threads that run through all these gift manifestations, and invites us to participate through everyday acts of kindness — in an uplifting global movement.

You can watch it below.

 

pay what you can, gift economy, sliding scale and barter

My colleague Aumatma has run a ‘gift economy’ style naturopathic clinic for two and a half years. For years, I’ve run most of my workshops on a pay what you can basis.

After all, imagine having your clients not only rave about what you do but also how you charge for it.

What if you never had to feel even a little bit uncomfortable about your pricing ever again?

What if you could balance your desire to stay accessible (helping those who need you most), stay true to your politics and your need to be financially sustainable (making sure your needs are met to).

We’d love to get your help with two things . . .

THING #1 – Examples of businesses and projects that work on a pay what you can, gift economy, sliding scale and barter basis (in part or entirely). If you’ve tried to work with these models, what have you found? What have you learned?

THING #2 – What are your biggest questions or wonderings around these kinds of alternative pricing models?

pay what you can and cheesecake

So . . . I just got featured on a blog by one of my favourite people in Canada – Rebecca Tracey (pictured here).  I thought you might enjoy reading it.

It’s about cheesecake and the benefits of the Pay What You Can economy. For some people, offering services and events on a PWYC basis can be the very best thing ever. Maybe for you too?

If you’re always intrigued to hear another lense on what to charge, you can read her post here and check out her own PWYC offer too.

 

If you’d like get cool posts like this in your inbox every few days CLICK HERE to subscribe to my blog and you’ll also get a free copy of my fancy new ebook “Marketing for Hippies” when it’s done.

oakland’s pay what you want holistic clinic

Imagine a holistic health clinic where you didn’t have to pay.

Last August, I was emailed a link to a video about just such a clinic in Oakland, California. Since people know I do most of my workshops on a Pay What You Can basis – they tend to send me lots of stories and examples. I watched the video and was so moved and posted it onto my blog.

And then, just a month ago I was in Oakland leading a marketing workshop with my pal Alex Baisley called, ‘Marketing for Hippies and Gyspies’ (myself being the hippie and alex being the gyspie). As we did the introduction circle at the start of the day – a woman, Aumatma Binal Shah (pictured right), introduced herself and the amazing, gift economy holistic health clinic she ran.

Levers and gears clicked in my head. I burst out in the biggest smile and blurted out, ‘You’re on my blog!!!’. I was so excited. I think you will be too when you read about it and watch the video below.

Aumatma’s project – The Karma Clinic – is special, brave and generous. I want to see it get every scrap of support it can. Spread the word.

Below is my interview with her.

*

What is the name of your project?

Karma Clinic

What’s the story of how this came about? What was the need you saw in the community that it emerged from?

I had a vision when I was 18 that I would be doctor running a ‘free’ clinic.

At the time, I wanted nothing to do with either- medicine or free! Fast forward 4 years of pre-med undergrad and at the end not having a clue what to do with my life since I really did not want to go to medical school, I was discouraged and confused.

At that time, I got a piece of “junk mail” at my parents’ home from a Naturopathic College. I took one look at the curriculum and knew that I was meant to become a Naturopathic Doctor and that I was being called to be of service. Through school, I volunteered at numerous free clinics and noticed that something was missing- people mostly took us for granted, and did not follow the suggestions/ recommendations given to them.

After graduation from Naturopathic school with a Doctorate in Naturopathy and Master’s in Nutrition, I felt the need for an inward journey for discovery and deepening of understanding the world from a wholistic perspective.

That desire led me to a monastery where I spent a year, living mostly in silence, without any contact with money, and lots of time to connect with myself and nature while living harmoniously & sustainably with community and the earth. After a year, I felt called to re-start my service to the world on a broader scale so I left the monastery to join a naturopathic office, with my mentor.

Within a few months, I started to notice a repeated uneasiness in the pit of my stomach after each session, upon walking out of the office and telling the client they now owed us a large sum of money (usually between $300-500). I did not like the equation of this connection and relationship with another person with cash or transaction.

In complete synchro-destiny, I received an email from a dear friend who runs an organization/ hub for gift-economy projects, saying that there was some talk of a ‘karma hospital’- similar to Karma Kitchen, but instead of serving food, the intention was to serve health. Very excited by the possibility, I moved across the country 3 months later, to converse and create with others that were inspired by the same vision.

This closed a loop for me of the vision I had in meditation 10 years prior, and I knew that I was following my path, my truth.

Can you share a few examples of how your project works?

The way it works is: a client contacts me (or some other practitioner within the network) for an appointment. They get sent an extensive questionnaire which they fill out and send back. Then, they make an appointment to come into the office. We have our first session, generally about 2 hours.

At the end of our time together, I say something like (it changes to what’s most authentic in the moment): “Thank you for this opportunity to be of service, and a small conduit for your healing process. I offer this to you as a gift, because there’s no price tag that is enough- and any price is too much! Your session was made possible by someone that came before you and if you wish to pay it forward, so that someone else may have this experience, you can do so- now or at any point in the future.” At that point, the client may have questions, or an offering, or a ‘thank you’ and a hug! All are received with trust and generous heart.

Who do you find it’s working best for?

In terms of the gift-economy component, it works best for those that are wishing to grow in their generosity, don’t have access to medical care and are in need of it, and are willing to make a shift in their life for the better.

In terms of my own specialties, I work with a variety of issues but focus on: anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and stress-induced chronic illness. The reason that I focus on these is that they often get ignored and eventually result in greater imbalances and diseases in the body. So, its the way I feel I can be of the most service to those that need it the most!

how do you deal with the ‘guilt’ that can come up when people are afraid they won’t pay enough – i get this all the time.

The ‘guilt’ is a feeling that’s an internal measure that can actually be used as an indicator light for internal truth, rather than intellectualized truth. However, that feeling of guilt is internal- understanding that it is not coming from the gift-economy practitioner because there’s no pressure to give back in the gift-economy. The “right” amount should feel light and joyous. So, when giving a gift, one should give the amount that feels good- its a different place for everyone, but each individual has that place that feels “light and right” to them! It’s not too much, not too little.

 

What are the top three most effective ways you’ve found to market this?

I haven’t marketed at all! My clients spread the word all on their own. So, the best thing I have found to do is to be present with the person immediately in front of me.

do you have any fancy marketing and promotion ideas coming up?

No. Just moving with the flow of what the universe brings in.

what advice would you give to someone wanting to try a gift economy approach?
Put on your gear (of compassion and trust) and dive in! It does help to have a mentor though- because inevitably, things arise which need to be talked through.  In the beginning, it’s also helpful to have some period of time that your basic needs are met to start out (I say 6 months is a good period of time), to allow yourself to really dive into the gift-economy, without expecting anything in return. Last but not least, connect with community that inspires you and connect with your own gratitude regularly.

What are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?

TRUST. TRUST. TRUST. I have deepened (and continue to deepen) my trust in the universe- that all my needs will be met if I just allow my gifts to flow through me.

What’s the next level for your project? What are you most excited about that’s coming up?

Excited about the growing network of gift-based healers across the country! I am going to be on tour June 5th-July 15th, doing funshops on “Money & Media for healers”. These workshops are also offered on a gift basis and am looking forward to having conversations with other healers around money, sharing gift-economy model for healthcare with them, and inspiring them to try new ways of practicing their art/ service/ gift.

Go watch this little video about the Karma Clinic:

 

 

If people want to find out more about your project, support it or get involved – what should they do?

Come visit our site at:

http://www.karmaclinic.org

 

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Pay What You Can Nutritional Consulting

A new Toronto friend of mine, Rebecca Tracey (pictured to the right), is starting her business as an holistic nutritionist. And she sent me a text the other night asking my opinion about doing pay what you can sessions. And since this is an idea a lot of people seem to be having – I thought I’d share it with you all. Here’s the transcript of our conversation . . .

Conversation #1: Via iPhone texting

Rebecca: Hi! I want to do nutrition consults on pay what you can basis for the next few weeks while my ankle is busted (I can’t work at the restaurant)… ideas on how to  go about this?

Me: Yes. I’ve got a few ideas. Number 1 – give them mandatory homework to complete before the call.  If they dont do it in full – you reschedule the consult.

Rebecca: It won’t be a call…. Will be in person… I need them to fill out a 5 day food journal though before we meet…

Me: Cool. Make that mandatory.  Have them send it to you 24 hours before you meet.

Rebecca: Hmmm interesting! Doesn’t that make them feel like you are being… For lack of a better word… Bossy? Hard? Like a parent?

Me: Self respect. Boundaries.  That’s how it will strike people.  Very attractive. Also. How much would this cost if they were to pay full price?

Rebecca: About 90-125 for an hour… If I was charging what most nutritionists charge.

Me: Great. So make sure you tell them the price.  Like, “this is how much this would normally cost”

Rebecca: Right.

Me: I want to offer you a session that you’d normally pay $90 for. But you can have it for whatever you want to pay. However: there are three charming catches.

Catch #1: you must keep a five day food journal and send me the results 24 hours before our meeting.

Catch #2: you must be willing to give me honest written feedback (good or bad) within 48 hours of the consult. I want to learn!

Catch #3: you must meet me at X location. I have no car and can’t travel far.”

Does that all make sense?

Rebecca: That all sounds like what I would likely tell them anyway…. Except for the feedback thing.. I ask for it but not demand it. So. Doesnt all this make them think they are doing you a favor an therefore not pay you very much money? And how do you suggest having people pay at the end of the consult? Give it to me directly? Put in Closed envelope?

Me: I suggest inviting them to mail you a cheque 3 days after. Give them a stamped envelope with your address already on it. . They’ll pay.  :)

Rebecca: Thank you!!! That all makes sense and I feel totally comfortable doing it that way.

Conversation #2: on facebook chat

Rebecca: hello! thank you so much for the PWYC tips! love it!

Me: :-):-) glad it helped.

Rebecca: it did! so you think 3 days after works for nutrition? one service i am offering is a more in depth protocol, which woudl require a follow up appt 2 weeks after the initial…

Me: have you considered making it sliding scale vs. pwyc? giving them a range?

Rebecca: hmmm havent decided which is better.

Me: you could even do ‘sliding scale of $1 – 90′ or, $40 – 90 – the key is to pick a price or range that feels really great for you. and for sure i’d make it a limited offer like, ‘i’m sitting here witha bum ankle and i’ve got time and space for 10 people. so i wanted to make it totally easy to say yes to – a no brainer’ that kind of thing.’

Rebecca: yep for sure. hmmm re: sliding scale… not sure… still seems like i am telling them the price…and i dont want to exclude anyone who cant pay the minimum… but then again, i dont want to be doing this for $5 a piece either! :):)

Me: i’ve had people pay me 10 days after a pwyc consult. my logic was – i want you to see if you get results and then pay me based on that and you might say ‘it’s a $40 – 90 but i also accept barter’ or ‘it’s $90. period. but if you can’t afford to pay cash – we can come up with a creative barter’ or ‘it’s $90 but i’ll let you pay that out in three installments so it’s totally painless – and you bring post dated cheques’

Rebecca: yeah im not interesting in bartering right now.. i have done some of that in the past and it gets complicated

Me: i would NOT do it for $5. don’t let it happen

Rebecca: what if someone pays me $5!?

Me: it’s why i’m wondering ifsliding scale with a minimum would work better.

Rebecca: also, with nutrition, i would love to be able to let people implement changes, see results, and then pay me based on what they think its worth… but compliance is such an issue that i wouldn’t want to bank on it

Me: totally. it’s why the homework upfront is so key. it gets them to start investing. and weeds out the tirekickers. if someone won’t do 5 days of homework they won’t implement your suggestions.

Rebecca: so smart! i wonder what else i could get them to do…. i need the food journal anyway, but i bet there is something else i can do that would improve compliance later on too… ohhh! what about something like ..

Me: totally. that’s exactly the thinking to have: how can you get them to vest themselves more deeply in it. you might ask them to get a ‘food buddy’ – like find someone they’ll be doing this process with

Rebecca: ha i was just about to say that

Me: nice! and before they meet you for the session they need to have set up a follow up meeting with their buddy.

Rebecca: that would be a huge help. like telling 3 close friends/family members what they are doing and having them get on board and keep them accountable

Me: totally. i’d give them a prewritten email they can send to friends and family. they can edit it obviously, but something like, ‘hey friends! i’m excited – meeting with a nutritionist soon and excited to implement what she suggests to make my diet a bit healthier and i want to ask for your support in the following three ways . . .”

Rebecca: yes, that is wonderful! oh you are so smart

Me: it’s why i get paid . . . whatever . . . people want to pay me . . .?

Rebecca: haha

If you’re in Toronto and want to book a session with her just go to her website – www.rebeccatracey.ca where you’ll find her contact info. And to see how she wrote up her PWYC offer (with my commentary) go HERE.

 

If you’d like get cool posts like this in your inbox every few days CLICK HERE to subscribe to my blog and you’ll also get a free copy of my fancy new ebook “Marketing for Hippies” when it’s done.