Do you struggle with the ethics of making a profit?

Via Molly Gordon
on Feb 10, 2012
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Child feeding ducks“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


About Molly Gordon

Molly Gordon is a business sage and trickster for the spiritually and psychologically savvy. Her lifetime project is to wake up. A Master Certified Coach and a Certified Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie, she’s passionate about using and teaching the opportunities for personal transformation in everyday life and work. / Molly and her husband, Miles live in Suquamish, Washington, with Bolivia the wonder cat and three hens: Viola Swamp, Sophie, and Feathergrain. When not hanging out with their astonishingly talented grandchildren, she gardens, reads, cycles, and tools around Puget Sound on a bright yellow paddleboard. / You can subscribe to Molly’s weekly ezine, Authentic Promotion, and read her blog at You can also find her on Facebook at and on Twitter at


2 Responses to “Do you struggle with the ethics of making a profit?”

  1. Lisa Bland says:

    I agree that you should set a price that doesn’t make you needy or desperate, but the reality is that if you set up a business so that you are only dealing with an individual and elitist clientele, then you may not available to help those that might be in hard times.

    When a business owner is flexible and accountable to the larger community through compassion – they find ways to say yes, be flexible about their price and not turn a blind eye to those in economic turmoil.

    By setting a payment format ahead of time you have no accountability to seeing the “person” behind the situation and de-personalize the currency of exchange.

    I recently inquired about an appointment with a healing practitioner I had been to before. She had raised her rates from $60 an hour to $100 hr in the course of 2 years. For a full day of hard physical labor, I make $150 a day take home. I felt angry that she valued her self so excessively that I could no longer afford her services without feeling resentment.

    Sure you can decide that you are worth this much an hour, but who are you really available to help? People might pay this price if they are desperate, but more often than not, I come away from these types of healing sessions thinking, “Wow, that was way overpriced.”

    This, “It’s not my problem” attitude is the same sort of perspective that creates greed and entitlement in our society. There are many ways to exchange currency other than money and at some point we are going to have to figure out how to share and be compassionate about giving to those that are consistently left out of the fold of human empowerment & healing realms due to their cost.

    These are the people in whose lives we might make a difference – if we are willing to look them in the eyes and respond in kind, with a fair and flexible price. In fact, the value of this type of exchange might transform our own lives so much that we are transported out of our ideas of finite material existence into the limitless love that is at the heart of all exchanges no matter the circumstances.

  2. Molly,
    Thanks for this article… I am in the wellness business and I understand your points.

    Your comment about being angry about the rates that wellness practitioners charge made me think about how people can have strong feelings and emotions associated with money. I have slots in my yoga teacher training program for folks who benefit from discounts as well as scholarship and bartering situations – in hope that this helps me reach more people in varying economic situations. I also have coached people at no cost… so, my point is – wellness practitioners are aware that not all folks can pay $50-$150/hour and it's my hope that we address that as individuals. If I didn't need an income – I'd do it for free for all. You did bring up an important point and I thank you for that reminder.