Reconciling Making a Profit and Being of Service


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I know many fabulous women who work hard to provide a great service for their clients. But some of them are not making the kind of money they need to thrive, let alone survive. I strongly believe that part of the dilemma for many women in business is that they have a hard time reconciling making great money (making a profit) with providing a good service. They are conflicted about money, and this conflict interferes with their ability to grow a thriving business. What about you? Can you reconcile profit and service?

While there are many reasons that this reconciliation is difficult, three reasons stand out to me. First, many service providers spend a lot of their time, money and energy honing their skills. Therapists, for example, go to school to learn their craft and continue to invest in their training. But it is unusual in all of this schooling to learn how to run a business, let alone a profitable business. And this suits many just fine, until they find themselves struggling with their private practice. Many women would rather “do what they do” and not have to care about finances. Not only are many service providers not trained to think about business and money, many would prefer not to.

This brings us to the second reason. For some business owners, there is this unspoken belief that money somehow taints the process. There is often an inherent discomfort with charging people for helping them. It is as if charging people for helping them somehow makes our motives less “pure”. I hear women say: “My greatest satisfaction comes in being able to serve my clients well. ” If this is our highest spoken value in our work, then many women feel greedy when they think about asking for more money. Shouldn’t we be satisfied enough with serving people? And no one wants to feel greedy, or be thought of that way.

Finally, there is a basic relational fear common to many women: What will people think about me? How will others feel if I charge more money? The core fear is that if we ask for more, or charge more, people won’t like us, or will think less of us. This can be intolerable for many women, and so they labor on making very little money, but feeling safe in their relationships.

The dilemma is that if you do not focus on making good money, your business will become anemic and fade before your very eyes. Without sufficient money, you will lose the ability to help people. You need to make good money so you can continue investing in your training and maintain a high level of quality in your business. But this is also about taking care of yourself! If you do not make enough, you will have a depressed lifestyle. This depressed lifestyle leads to stress, and this stress in turn affects your ability to be effective.

So what can you do? For one thing, it is imperative that service providers learn how to run their business as a business. (Lynn Grodzki’s book Building Your Ideal Private Practice, addresses these issues beautifully. She is a therapist turned business coach who understands the conflict between service and profit that so many people deal with. ) And it is also imperative that you improve your relationship to money. One wonderful way to do this is to find role models you admire. Can you find women in business who are making good money and whom you deeply respect? These are women you want to get to know! Another idea is to directly work on how you feel about the wealthy. Look for examples of wealthy people who are not greedy, but are generous, caring, and of service to the community. Keep a running list of these people. As this list grows, your feelings about wealth will also shift.

Consider doing affirmation work. Try “I easily accept abundance in my life”, or “A profitable practice benefits myself and my clients”. Although “money is my friend” can sound corny, many of my clients have found this to be a great beginning affirmation. When we open up to the possibility of money being our friend, the idea of profit shifts to being a positive thing in our lives.

Do you want to become a successful business woman? If you remain conflicted about service and profit, you will not be able to grow a successful business. And if you don’t make a decent profit in your business, you won’t be of service for long.

Mikelann Valterra, MA is the founder of the Women’s Earning Institute and the author of Why Women Earn Less- How to Make What You’re Really Worth. As a specialist in women’s earning issues, her mission is to empower women to earn what they’re really worth. Through trainings, business support groups and private work, she teaches women how to make peace with money and create more profitable practices. 206.634.0861


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