By Ann M. Gynn
Money is like any other social tool—and that’s all I think money is. There can be good uses of money and bad uses,” says Norman Kurland, managing director of the investment banking firm Equity Expansion International and president of the Center for Economic and Social Justice, a non-profit think tank.
Highly paid CEOs of failing companies, billion-dollar bailouts and nefarious ethics of executives make the headlines and further cement the idea to many that money is evil or at least problematic. So how does a company and its executives go about conveying money really can be a good thing and earning bigger profits is good for everybody? Make the case and get buy-in from all the stakeholders, from clients and employees to vendors.
Raise the emotion
Ted Sun, chief dream maker at Executive Balance, an executive consulting firm, and author of Survival Tactics: Top 10 Behaviors of Entrepreneurs, has shared his insight across the country with BizJournals, NBC News and Academy of Management and International Business. His advice? Refocus the conversation to identify money as a means to an end.
“By doing that, people will become a lot more attached to their core values,” Sun says. “So many people are
so disconnected with the outcome of their work. The outcomes are what people are working for.”
He explains that, too often, stakeholders see only the portion they create or are involved in and fail to see the big picture. Sun advises executives to talk about outcomes and how it influences customers rather than just talk about the person’s job.
“That focus allows them to have a much more emotional connection to it,” he says. To illustrate his point, he speaks of the Michelin commercial with a family driving a minivan. It’s not about the tires Michelin is selling; it’s about the family driving around safely.
“People are easily redirected if the emotional content is strong and well-designed. Help people understand that money is only a means to something else,” Sun says. “The end goal is something much more grand. Focus people on the purposes of the products/services.”
Know what money means
Sun, who speaks frequently on executive development, says he asks two questions of his audiences. The first is “Why do you work?” Most people respond “to make money.” When he asks the second, “What’s your purpose in life?” most people do not say “to make money.”
“It gets people to think,” Sun says.
Business executives who understand what their stakeholders see as their purpose in life can work to promote the currency that helps them achieve that—and the means may not be money.
Billy Lowe, a celebrity hairstylist with salons in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and New York, agrees with Sun. “In the beginning it’s important to figure what motivates a person. Some staff members are motivated by money; others are not,” he says. “Working with team members takes a little time in developing programs to help them set, see and meet goals.”
In turn, Lowe says, the business sees a direct benefit. “Team members who are rewarded well seem to take more pride in their work and in their environment,” he says. “They also seem to have a greater sense of business-building and enterprising. This is obviously important to a salon owner because the team members are a bit more autonomous with their work, rather than waiting on the salon to drive traffic through the door.”
Nick Vaidya, profitability management specialist and president of The Global Alliance of CEOs, says leaders need to communicate their big picture vision to their team as often as possible so they see more than a paycheck. “Get out of your corner office and be there,” he says. “Create value and it will shine. Make yourself and your
vision visible and vulnerable.
“Do internal PR. Your employees are your constituents too. Mobilize them and you will have earned your salary. Let money be the by-product,” Vaidya says.
While some may balk at $200 for a haircut at one of Lowe’s salons, he says it’s important to realize service is about more than a haircut. “I’ve always said, ‘If you look great, you feel great,’” Lowe says. “I believe looking your best keeps you feeling your best. Clients value their time in the salon and look forward to their visit—not just for the results after but for the relationships that happen in the salon.”
As such, he works hard to develop those relationships. Whether it’s a glass of wine in the salon or an escort to the car, those added touches strengthen the business-client relationship. “It may be my southern roots, but I’ve always focused on outstanding customer service and giving clients a compelling reason to return time and time again,” he says. “This is an industry that is truly built on relationships, and clients come to expect great service and excellence.”
Sun explains building a connection is essential to achieving higher prices for your services or products. “People will pay you more if they trust you—if they really understand what emotion is all about,” he says. “Once people focus on the positive outcomes of your products and services, the value will have higher emotional content. When organizations don’t mention the emotional outcomes of their products and services, it allows people to create their own.”
Lowe says businesses also must be willing to adapt their relationships to best serve the clients, further strengthening the emotional connection even if the money isn’t there. At his salons, for example, if a long-term client is having a difficult time financially, he is more than happy to work with them. “We have a saying, ‘Everyone gets in,’” Lowe explains.
Serve wide income range
Frank N. Darras built his career as one of the nation’s top insurance lawyers assisting poor and disabled people. “It’s never been about the money; it’s always been about helping. For me, the money has really been just a by-product.”
DarrasLaw, which has collected about $750 million in claims over the last 25 years, may have started with the poor, but it’s expanded to serve the wealthy. “Over the years, the poor came first to my practice, but the rich followed. Now my clients include professional athletes and high-profile actors,” Darras says.
Growing his practice’s revenue presented Darras with more opportunities and the ability to pick and choose his clients. “The richness of my practice enables me to help for free 1,000 people a month with questions, concerns and problems,” Darras says, explaining the firm offers “free advice Fridays” and created www.darraslaw.com with high-quality videos and content to help people with their insurance-related questions.
Spend more, get more
High-revenue businesses also find because they spend more money with manufacturers and other vendors, those stakeholders are more likely to help them. “Perhaps because they spend more in volume for products and equipment, manufacturers are happy to support high-end salons in providing more educational opportunities than smaller salons that might not spend as much,” Lowe says, noting the additional support can be
invaluable to the business. “It’s true that talent varies from person to person, and it varies based on the support that is provided.”
Darras says high-earning businesses also gain leverage. “Insurance companies understand I have the largest practice in the country. That gives me stature. I see more cases. I can see what they’re doing in real time. With 2,000 cases a month, I can see in two weeks if they’re using a new claim device or changing program strategy,” he says. “Money has allowed me to see the industry in real time.”
In addition, Darras explains the firm also can use the money to better serve its clients by hiring the smartest people available. “It’s allowed me to pay my people extraordinary dollars to do this work. It’s allowed me to compete at the highest levels,” he says.
Rethink the perception
When Lowe was a child, his parents would say things like, “Rich people are stuck up.”
“I never felt that way,” he says. “I personally see the wealthy as some of the most generous people I have ever met. I believe the more I have, the more I can do good with.
“It doesn’t do me or anyone else any good if I am suffering or challenged financially. I don’t believe anyone should accept labels that are put on them because of limiting beliefs that others may have grown up with.”
Sun says the key for business executives to overcoming the money-is-evil perception is understanding why the belief has some truth to it. “In today’s world, the biggest challenge is when people amass large amounts of money, they lose touch with reality. They become arrogant, have an entitled mentality and don’t treat others as well as they used to. That’s where the evil association comes from—people who use money as a shield,” he says.
Many companies have been paying employee health and other benefits for years but never disclosing how much they were spending. Employees didn’t know the significant dollars spent behind the scenes on their behalf. Last year’s health care reform act changes that.
With an optional start in 2012 and mandated for 2013, companies now will show on each employee’s W-2 how much they spent on health care benefits. The new field isn’t taxable but it is educational so employees really will know what their employer spends on them.
Frank N. Darras, one of the nation’s top insurance lawyers, breaks down the benefits. Making money:
1. Helps people who need expertise and other assistance.
2. Creates jobs that boost the economy.
3. Creates more spending, which increases demands.
4. Allows people to give more to charities and favorite causes.