Back when I ran a department at a top notch treatment center for troubled teens, the last thing I thought about was money. We were busy saving lives, and that’s all that mattered to me.
So when the CEO reminded me to make sure the staff were monitoring insurance benefits, that really irritated me.
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, and ran right into trouble.
Suddenly, there was no billing department, and no paycheck. There was no one else to make sure the bills got paid and the lights stayed on.
I was the one who had to monitor insurance payments, generate income and collect actual checks (gasp!) from the people I served.
I was immediately conflicted.
I loved having money. Of course I wanted to get paid.
And I hated asking for money. I didn’t want my clients to think that’s all that mattered, and I didn’t want “that money stuff” messing up our relationship.
(Did you catch the assumptions there?)
So my husband built a small wooden box with brass hinges and a little slot in the top, and hung it on a wall by the door to my office. If a client asked about paying, I told them to just drop a check in the box on their way out.
What a great solution! I didn’t have to deal with money at all!
Not surprisingly, payments were often forgotten, or ignored. So, at the end of the day, when I’d check the box, there wasn’t much there.
Remember, 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 was not a bad word.
And this isn’t volunteer work.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m a huge believer in the good that comes through volunteer work.
But this is your business. It’s your livelihood, your income, your way of supporting yourself and your family. After covering your costs, the profit you take home is what you live on.
This is a good thing. Remember?
Your purpose may be to make the world a better place. The purpose of your business is to make money. And if you’re not making a profit, you’re not making money.
If I didn’t make enough, my family would suffer. At a minimum, I owed it to them to get this right.
My second lesson: money was a therapeutic issue.
As a psychotherapist, my clinical work came first, and I had an old saying: “It’s all grist for the mill.”
That means everything a client brings into the room, anything that comes up in our collaborative, working relationship, matters. And it matters often in ways that are quite subtle.
That included conversations about payment.
I learned that clients needed to talk about money. Goodness knows they worried about it, whether we discussed 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, helped me understand them better. 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 address it easily, and openly.
My third lesson: money was an exchange of value.
It took me a long time to learn this, but here’s what I (finally) know.
As a consumer, what I pay shows what I value. If it’s not that important, I don’t think much about the price. I just get the cheapest widget I can find and move on.
But if it IS important, for whatever reason, I’m often willing to pay quite a bit more, and I don’t resent it. Far from it.
I appreciate it.
In other words, I may choose the cheapest brand of soap or paper towels, but I don’t want the cheapest doctor, business coach, or financial adviser.
I want the best.
Now think of that as a business owner.
If what you offer to the world is important, and of the highest quality, then being paid well for what you do is right.
But when you accept less than what your service 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 value as we both see it. If you don’t believe in the value of what you do, why would anyone else?
In the end, I owed it to my Self to make my peace with money, as well.
I never saw that one coming.
Why this matters.
When you have a conflict with money, your success, and your income, will reflect that on-again/off-again relationship. Even after decades of running a business, that lesson comes back to me over and over again.
On the other hand, a loving, respectful, healthy relationship with money means you love your work, love your clients, and love yourself: a true win/win.
How about you? How’s your relationship with money these days?
Photo Credit: by Glen Lascuna on Flickr