I believe that if the world made its decisions based on something else besides money, it would be a better place. I’m not going to change the world, though. I understand that now. But I can make my world better, and by setting an example, maybe I can help you make yours better too.
I find that the decisions I make in life that are not based on money are the best ones I have made so far. I still find it hard, though. I mean, $3 avocados? Forget it!
You ever hear the saying, if you have to ask how much it is you probably can’t afford it. I’m not entirely sure if this is true. I might say that if you have to ask how much, you probably don’t want it, need it, or love it enough. When someone’s child needs surgery, the parent doesn’t ask how much it’s going to cost. When the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, who is going to ask the only mechanic for hundreds of miles, how much? When your very best friend is getting married at some far off destination, you say you’ll be there. Yes, there is a time to ask how much in each of these scenarios, but it doesn’t come into play in the decision-making process. The decision is made long before the question of how much is ever asked.
This is how I want to approach life. Taking the money out of a decision and basing it instead on how important something is to me. So far, I have the decisions broken up into three categories: Purchases, Work, and Business.
Before I even start here, I have to say that you have to be able to afford it! Period! To say, take the money out of your decision making is a fine and dandy theory that you may or not believe but I want to make it clear that I am not saying it is ok to go into debt. How do you know if you can afford it? Easy, you have the cash in your pocket or bank account, AND it’s in your budget. That’s it! I don’t have time to get into a debate about your stupid credit score.
When I was a real estate agent, my goal was to find a win-win for both the seller and the buyer. It was a tough situation to be in because, regardless of my fiduciary responsibility, I care about people. I wanted the buyer to make a profit but not at the cost of screwing over the buyer. I also wanted the buyer to get a good deal on the house, but not at the expense of the seller. This was a tough profession because it was all about money especially with other agents, they were fucking animals.
When I say take the money out of the decisions of purchases, it’s two-fold. Don’t make your purchase because it’s cheap and don’t avoid it because it’s expensive. You have to find that sweet spot, the win-win.
Do you know how many things I have taken back to Goodwill with the price tag still on it? I basically rented crap so it could take up space and so I could lug it around with me as I traveled. Although it can be tough, I have learned not to buy things because they are cheap. Do I need it Do I love it? Is it useful? These are the reasons I try to base my decision on whether to buy or not. Not because it’s cheap.
Now, if I need it, love it, and it is going to be useful, does it matter how much it cost? With winter coming I am in the market for a minimalist boot. I have been looking for about two years now and haven’t found anything. Let’s say I came across a pair, they were waterproof yet breathed, the had no heal, a big open toe box, and more importantly than anything else, they fit me. Everything I have been looking for the past couple of years is there, right in front of me. The problem is they are expensive. If I based my decision on the cost, I would pass on them. I would pass on something that took me two years find, something that I needed and would use daily through several winters to come. That would be dumb. Don’t cheat yourself. If you have the cash and it’s in your budget, get it!
Not too long ago I had a plumbing issue with one if my rentals. I hemmed and hawed for hours about what I should do. My guys could do the job, but they were two hours away and couldn’t pull the permits. Not having the permits would have made trouble when it came time to sell. I couldn’t stand the thought of paying a company to do a job my guys could have done for a quarter of the cost. So, I was going back and forth. Trying to decide if it was worth the money or not No, it was not a life or death situation but it weighed heavy on me. Meanwhile, the water heater was flooding the basement of my rental. I finally remembered my own theory, take the money out, dummy.
I called the plumber and told them to go ahead with the job. It was an instant relief. The tenant was going to have a new water heater in a matter of hours. My guys wouldn’t have to stop working on jobs that actually paid money. And, I no longer had the stress of keeping either of them happy nor did I have to be concerned about the rental. It was no longer in my hands. It was being taken care of by the people I decided to pay to take care of it.
I made the decision not based on what was cheapest, but rather on what was best. I didn’t call around looking for the lowest rates in town. I knew these guys would get it done and get it done right. This is important! Because I own a business that often gets turned down because we did not have the lowest bid. I can tell you that this is a mistake. Not because I own the business but because I have seen what happens on both ends, to the customer and the company.
Here’s an example for each:
A homeowner accepts a bid because it is the lowest. It takes the winning bidder a while to get the job started because they also accepted another job that pays more. Getting that job done first is a priority because it PAYS MORE! When they do finally get to the work, a subpar job is done on the shower install or drywall or whatever they were hired for. The homeowner would then has to call one of the other bidders (the higher priced ones) and pay them to either complete the original job or fix what the other guys messed up. The homeowner ends up being inconvenienced and paying more for the job than if they had just taken the money out in the first place.
The business owner is happy to get the job because they need the business but once he runs the numbers — payroll, workman’s comp, health care, liability insurance, gas, and everything else — he realizes that, if he is lucky, he will break even on this job. He is frustrated and doesn’t know what to do. His guys deserve raises. They deserve a bonus. They deserve lunch on the boss. But he can’t provide any of that. His company is the equivalent of a family that lives paycheck to paycheck. All because he has to put in super low bids to be sure he can get the work.
If there is anything wrong with this country, I would say this is it. That people are being run into the ground so that others can make or save a buck. People complain about Walmart and their crappy pay and benefits but to they understand why Walmart has crappy pay and benefits. It’s because they sell shit so cheap and you know who is buying this shit? The very people who are complaining about it.
When people buy something simply because of its low price, there is an enormous negative chain reaction that affects the entire world.
Most people choose their work based on what it will pay. If they were to take the money out of this decision-making process, I wonder if they would take it. Would they take a job that wasn’t fun, the one that was far from home, that was for a company they despised, or to do work they said they would never do again? How about one that takes you away from your family for months at a time?
When I was a contractor in Iraq, I got to see a lot of men come back for their second year in a row after being home for three weeks or so. I remember one ole boy from Texas, was like, “Man, it sure was tough getting on that plane. My youngest was in tears. I told her, ‘Don’t you wanna have a nice paid for house.’” I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I do remember thinking, What kid cares about whether the mortgage is paid for or not and that no amount of money would cause me to lose two years of my daughter’s childhood.
Do you know of any celebrities who are unhappy with their current profession? Maybe unhappy is the wrong word. How about stars who have this deep down desire to do something else. Steve Martin started writing; Kevin Bacon formed The Bacon Brothers; Kanye West launched a clothing line; Shaquille O’Neal did Kazaam. My guess is they took the money out of their decision and pursued something they always wanted to do or something they loved. Well, maybe Shaq did Kazaam for the money.
I often hear people say “yeah but you have your freedom.” This usually comes after I comment on how nice their stuff is. Nice house, nice truck, nice everything. Even though they have this great paying job that affords them all these things they still look at me and wish they could do what I do. They can. All they have to do is take the money out.
As a small business coach, one of the things I ask my clients when they are considering a small scale startup is what they intend to charge. Then I mention to them that other, more successful business coaches out there immediately say to double that number. “Why,” they ask? Because the typical person out there trying to start their yoga teaching, massage therapist or Etsy shop enterprise is a little insecure and thus underestimating their value.
The first thing that comes to their mind is that they will lose customers. Believe it or not, that’s the whole point. What if they lost half of their clients? Well, they would have half the workload and would continue to bring in the same amount of money. Also, all those people that left would make room for new clients at the new price.
Two business owners I worked with, eventually raised their prices and it made all the difference in the world. Some people complained and went elsewhere. Some people balked at the high price but paid anyway. And some didn’t blink twice. They are the customers business owners want. These are the ones I want. I had to hit rock bottom before I took my own advice.
My company came close to not making payroll one too many times before I decided “That’s it.” I said. “Time to raise prices.” I didn’t care who we pissed off because it didn’t matter. We were not going to stay in business much longer if we continued at our current rate. We did lose customers, but our income went up. Enough to get all my guys, who were all fathers or soon to be fathers, health insurance. It was the best business decisions I ever made. No wonder I suggest it to so many people.
What about those customers my clients and I lost? Our life is better for it. People who complain about price are going to complain about other things too. Life is better without them. I for one do not want to do business with someone who is hiring based on our price. I’d rather their decision be based on the work we do, which is easy because we do great work.