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February 10, 2012

Do you struggle with the ethics of making a profit?

“Please don’t give me anything or do anything for me unless you can do so with the kind of joy a little child has when it feeds a hungry duck.” –Nonviolent Communication, Marshall B. Rosenberg

A child feeding bread to a duck acts from joyous generosity. And she can be generous because her heart is open and she has a ready supply of bread to share. She shares from fullness and ease.

Here’s the deal. When we keep our businesses on starvation diets, they present famished faces to the world. What happens to you when you are approached by someone who is needy, hungry, desperate? Perhaps you are moved to compassion, and you extend a helping hand. Perhaps you feel irritation; not having enough for yourself, you resent anyone who wants something from you. There are many possible responses to neediness, but they don’t include the desire to purchase a product or service.

Think about it. When we don’t charge enough for our services or products and run our businesses on minimal resources, the impression we make on others is not that we offer help but that we need help. It’s as if in lieu of selling, we come across as asking for charity.

When I started coaching, I noticed at once how the amount I charged and the terms I offered affected my work. Because my clients pay in advance by credit or debit card, I have no collection issues, no accounts receivable to monitor, and no meter running. I never have to wonder if my client can afford what I am providing them, nor do I have to be stingy with my attention. I charge enough that I am delighted to respond to each request, and that means my clients get my best most of the time. (Yup. I’m human. Making a profit is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being generous, available, and attentive.)

The Marshall Rosenberg quote at the top of this post sums it up: most of us don’t really want anything that is not freely and enthusiastically given. Design your business practices so that you deliver your work with authentic generosity so that both you and your clients and customers can thrive.

Photo by John Burke via Flickr

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Molly Gordon  |  Contribution: 3,200