There was a time when I wouldn’t even touch money.
Back when I worked at a top notch long term treatment facility for really troubled teens, the last thing I thought about was how long their insurance supported their care. The work we did was saving lives; that’s all that mattered to me.
So when my boss said to make sure my team of therapists were watching the insurance benefits, that really irritated me, and I’d puff right up with righteous indignation.
Why would I care about that? That was someone else’s job. All I cared about was helping those kids.
So of course, when I started my own practice, I took that attitude with me.
Suddenly, “that money stuff” was staring me in the face.
Suddenly, there was no paycheck; no billing department. There was no one else who would make sure the bills got paid and the lights stayed on.
Suddenly, I was the one who had to watch insurance, create income and collect actual checks (gasp!) from the people I wanted to help.
I was immediately conflicted.
I had to get paid, but I didn’t want clients to think that all I cared about was the money. And I really didn’t want “that money stuff” messing up my relationship with them.
(Did you catch the assumptions there?)
I was so troubled by this that my husband tried to help. He built a little wooden box with nice brass hinges and a little slot cut into the slanted, locked, top. He hung that little box on a wall by the exit door at my office, so I could ask people to just drop their checks in on the way out.
What a great solution! I could keep money completely out of the room, and out of my client relationships. (I thought.)
At the end of the day, of course, I’d run to see if anyone paid me for their visit that day.
Needless to say, there wasn’t much there. A few co-pays made their way in, but often they were forgotten (or ignored). And insurance payments, if they came at all, were four to six months down the road after a session. So, it didn’t take long before I was in trouble.
I didn’t want to touch money.
So, naturally, there wasn’t much to touch.
Boy did I have a lot to learn.
My first lesson: profit is not a bad word.
And this isn’t volunteer work.
Don’t misunderstand me. Everyone has something to contribute, and I’m a huge believer in the power and good that comes through volunteer work.
But your business is not volunteer work. It’s your livelihood, your income, your way of supporting yourself and your family. The profit you take home, after covering your costs, is what you live on.
This is a good thing. Remember?
As my coach loves to say, your purpose is to make the world a better place. The purpose of your business is to make money.
If I didn’t learn to handle the money side of my practice, my family would pay the price. At the very least, I owed it to them to get comfortable with the idea of profit, and make my peace with money.
My second lesson: money is a “therapeutic issue”.
Somewhere along the way, I picked up a saying: “It’s all grist for the mill.”
Now, depending on where you’re from, that phrase may not make a whole lot of sense to you. :)
But essentially, it means that everything a client brings into the room, everything that comes up in our mutual, collaborative, working relationship, matters. And it matters often in ways that may not be so obvious at first.
That includes interactions around payment.
So I learned, eventually, that clients needed to talk about money. Goodness knows they worried about it, whether we talked about it or not. Pretending it wasn’t there did them a disservice, and made my discomfort their discomfort. That was the last thing I wanted to do!
How they felt about money, and managed it, taught me more about them as people. That, in turn, made me a better therapist.
So, in the language of my industry, money was a therapeutic issue. And I owed it to my clients to discuss it easily, and make peace with it.
My third lesson: money is an exchange of value.
It’s taken me a long, long time to learn this lesson. But here’s what I (finally) know.
As a consumer, what I pay says something about how much I value a product or service. If it doesn’t really matter, I won’t spend much time thinking about the price. I’ll just get the cheapest widget I can find and move on.
But when it’s really important to me, for whatever reason, I’m happy to pay more, sometimes much more, and I don’t resent it. Far from it.
I value it.
In other words, I may pick up a cheap bar of soap or brand of paper towels, but I don’t necessarily want the cheapest doctor, business coach, or financial adviser.
Now think of that as a business owner.
If you believe that what you offer to the world is important, needed, and of the highest quality, then being paid well for what you do feels right, is right.
But if you accept less than what you know your work is worth – what does that say to the world about your business?
(Better yet, what are you saying to your Self?)
Money is a mutual exchange of energy tied to worth as we both see it. If you don’t believe in the value of what you do, why would anyone else?
Amazingly, in the end, I owed it to my Self to make peace with money, as well.
I never saw that one coming.
Why this matters to you.
Whether you’re a business owner, or a dedicated employee, you, too, owe it to yourself to get comfortable with money.
As an employee, asking for a raise isn’t being greedy. Negotiating for a salary that truly reflects the value you bring to the table, honors your worth in the workplace.
And as an entrepreneur, being paid what you’re worth isn’t being greedy. It’s telling the world that you recognize, and honor, your value.
Making peace means that it’s okay to make a profit. It’s okay to be paid well. It’s okay to be worth it.
Because you are…
Photo Credit: by 401(K) 2012 on Flickr