Some aspects of business ownership continue to be challenging, no matter how many years we survive (and thrive) through the changing economic and technological environment. The issue that always gives me lots of trouble is the disconnect between value and price; between effort and reward.
For example, in late December, we received three cheques (these are from Canadian clients), with about $50,000 in revenue. If you wanted to write one of those “get rich quick without work” direct marketing scam pitches, I could have accurately asserted: “Fill in one form and receive cheques for life — and — wait, this year we received $24,536 for that one form I filled out 10 years ago.”
The other substantial cheque arrived from a major advertiser wishing to top up advertising purchases for 2013 with a pre-payment. All we needed to do was to generate a special invoice. “Yes, we made $26,132 (numbers not exact but close) with a simple one page form.”
Yet, today, I’m working on a voluntary project that will consume several additional hours of time, where my colleagues are concerned that we might be charging too much for a $60.00 networking dinner event. No profit in this one. Nor, much, from this blog. Sure, a few businesses buy some text advertising, and, yes, I sell several books a month (with a net revenue of about $15.00 each. But all of this work would be nearly meaningless except for one client who purchased several thousand dollars in advertising, and then repeated, again and again, and referred others. Heck, the blog, if we count the spin-offs from this client, has generated $80,000 in revenue in the last two years (and I earned the money through some “quick and easy” writing). Well, maybe not so quick and easy — it takes skill and effort to do this stuff, but it reflects my natural talent.
We all know about the easy sales that seem to arrive without much if any effort, and the sweat, tears, and frustration we encounter for minuscule results. Sometimes the issues are macro-economic. Very few of us escaped the 2008-09 recession shock, though in our case, we got off lighter in Canada than in the U.S. Some are because of luck. But is there something more to the story?
Over the weekend, I received answers to this challenge from two distinctive sources.
In the first, my young-adult African travel mate (and certified genius) Brian Schwartz reposted a cracked.com article on his Facebook thread: David Wong’s “6 Harsh Truths that Will Make You a Better Person.” Wong includes a clip from the classic sales-history film Glengarry Glenn Ross, where boiler-room sales reps are given the lecture of their lives.
In both stories, the message is that our success is defined not by what we want or need, but by what we have to give, share and contribute. The more value we create for others, the more success we achieve. So we ultimaately achieve more by contributing and sharing more — and not simply hoping for the big cheques to arrive.
Fair enough, but the question, then, is whether we can do anything to manage the imbalance between our obvious input and direct reward for effort?
Probably not, I fear. We can, however, focus our efforts on creating value, developing our skills and talents, and recognizing and appreciating the contributons of others. While we cannot control the windfall success (or frustrating failures) that shape our experiences, we can enjoy the opportunities that arise from developing our own skills and talents and creating lasting value for others. Then, we achieve success even if the big cheques don’t arrive (and enjoy them when they do.)