When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a business and branding strategist, because I really don’t want to be “just another business coach”. There are SO MANY out there, and I want what I do to feel a little different, even if at the end of the day, I’m totally a business coach. But, there are a few things that are different about me, and I think the biggest is that I’m really truly, plain old passionate about helping people. I’m not in it for the money (though, I would be sad if I had to end my love affair with Kate Spade and monthly facials). In fact, while many coaches are pushing people into programs, and using scare tactics to make someone down on their luck think working with them is their only shot at success, I can be heard turning people willing to pay me away. Why? Because debt sucks, and I don’t believe in contributing to it.
Before I go any further, a disclaimer: a lot of business coaches are wonderful, caring people. I know plenty that love what they do! Others freakin’ dominate with scare tactics, and hard sells, and they rock it, which is awesome for them. Different strokes for different folks, and all that.
One of the things that I’m most proud of in my life, is that I am not in debt.
When I was 20, I became a single mom, and got my very first apartment. Money was tight at times. It sucked! It doesn’t feel good to be worried about how you’re going to pay your bills. I racked up around $20,000 in court fees as my divorce/custody battle was dragged through the court system for years, and those invoices that kept coming in week after week were freakin’ depressing ($80 for a 10 minute conversation about how much I paid for daycare, agh!). I’m grateful to have been in a position where I did not have to go into debt because of the whole nightmare, but sometimes the weight of the checks I was writing felt crushing.
I decided then that I would not ever go into debt. So, I didn’t. Sometimes, it would have been easier to just put something on a credit card and deal with it later, but I knew myself, and knew that if I got into that habit, I would likely wind up getting into trouble.
Point is, I’m passionate about not being in debt. So, I don’t ever want my clients to go into debt! The last thing I want is to take someone that is struggling financially and add to that burden.
So, sometimes I tell people I cannot work with them until they get their money right. Yep, I tell someone that is all “how do I give you my money right this instant?!” that they can’t. Not yet.
Most recently, a woman contacted me through Instagram, and wanted help growing her wedding planning business. She had been at it for a year, and had no clients, and frankly, her business was a mess. She was living off of credit cards and had just sold some jewelry to get by. We talked, we fell in love, and working together seemed like the perfect fit. Only, I didn’t feel right about being the reason she went further into debt.
Before you come at me all “What a jerk! You could have helped her but instead you turned her away?Psh! You suck, Kim!”, know that I didn’t turn her away.
While I do turn people away when I feel their situation is truly dire, I don’t just send them on their way feeling like junk. I’m all about empowering women, and sometimes that means giving them a little tough love and getting real, so that they can improve.
When I’m faced with this type of situation, I talk with them about their current situation, and we make a plan as to how they’re going to get on a more even keel, so that they can begin working with me and working on their business. Sometimes it means finding a part time job for a while just to bring in some steady income (there’s no shame in working a J-O-B while you chase your dreams!). Maybe it means I come up with some sort of super special payment arrangement, so that the payment isn’t as big a burden. Perhaps we brainstorm how they can add a service, or product, or offer some sort of strategic promotion to come up with quick cash.
Eight times out of ten, the women come back to me, and proudly pay me in full. I’d say that’s not a bad number, and those clients are among the most loyal, because they appreciate that I cared about them as a person, before we even started working together.
While it’s true that some people use money as an excuse, because they simply don’t value what you’re offering them, or it isn’t really something they think they need, many times, money is actually the issue. I think I’m pretty good at deciphering which is which. Not sure how to tell the difference? This will help!
Some people dismiss me for my approach. I got an email from another coach, who heard about me in a FB group, that basically told me I was a total joke, and that there was no way I’d ever make money because I obviously was a failure when it came to finding my own ideal clients, since I was only attracting “poor” people. Clearly (in her opinion) I didn’t value myself, or else I would be booking clients regardless of their personal situation. Their personal situations weren’t my problem, and I’d better figure that out make some changes if I ever wanted to be successful.
First thought: rude. Second thought: she just doesn’t get me (which is fine, because someone that would send a stranger an email like that, is a bit of an ass-hat, in my book).
You see, success isn’t always about the money. Though, I’m doing just fine in that aspect. The fact that I am attracting people that can’t afford me, that’s actually ok, because I want to work with them. I love working with small business owners that are determined to do something they love. I enjoy helping them build things from the ground up. When they succeed, it makes me cry. Sometimes they have breakthroughs and cry on a call with me. That makes me cry too, because is makes me SO. FREAKING. HAPPY.
Because while the money is important, I place the value of my business upon my ability to make a difference.
At the end of the day, we all do things differently. If you’re a business owner, I’m not saying you should start turning down money, or that you should do business any differently. But, I urge you to try running your business with a little more heart.
Look at the people you work with as people, not dollar signs.
If you’re someone who is struggling to make their dreams come true, know that it is ok to take a step back and get your money right. Don’t ever feel pressured into investing in something when you really truly can’t afford it. Because debt sucks, and it’s hard to attack your business with laser-like focus when you’re starving and stressed out. Only you truly know what you can and can’t afford, and only you can go out there and improve your finances.
Now, go listen to Jessie J, and get out there and do something to make the world dance.
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